Dex­io­sis: A mean­ing­ful ges­ture of clas­sic an­tiq­uity

Oman Daily Observer - - ANALYSIS -

When I taught com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills a few years back, one of the ex­er­cises that would get a new group of stu­dents in­ter­act­ing with each other was by choos­ing a very large build­ing, and send­ing the stu­dents, half in each di­rec­tion, at in­ter­vals, on a walk around the out­side of the build­ing, even­tu­ally all re­turn­ing to the point of ori­gin. Their brief was sim­ple: Greet ev­ery­one you meet com­ing the other way, in a dif­fer­ent way us­ing dif­fer­ent words, ges­tures and ac­tions.

It was al­ways fun to watch from a dis­tance, as ev­ery pos­si­ble sce­nario is played out over a very brief pe­riod, and it’s amaz­ing how it proved a very ef­fec­tive ‘ice­breaker.’

Of course, the act of greet­ing an­other, is as old as the hills, and takes so many forms, but first and fore­most they first rely on eye con­tact, an ac­knowl­edge­ment of the pres­ence of the other per­son. One of the dif­fi­cul­ties in main­tain­ing eye con­tact how­ever is how long it should last, and what message are you send­ing?

It’s ac­tu­ally quite in­trigu­ing if you think about it. We don’t re­ally like hav­ing our per­sonal space in­vaded do we? Sim­i­larly, re­turn­ing eye con­tact is prob­a­bly well-man­nered, yet if we glance in the same di­rec­tion and find the same per­son still look­ing at us, it feels like an in­va­sion of pri­vacy doesn’t it? Yet, it may all be com­pletely in­no­cent!

On the other side of the coin, I like small town New Zealand style greet­ings, where nearly every­body knows every­body. Yet, de­light­fully, strangers are greeted with very open eye con­tact, there is some­thing in the look that says, “Oh, you’re new, I must say hello.” And…. Sure enough it hap­pens, a gen­uine smile upon get­ting closer, and a, “Hello, it’s a lovely day isn’t it?” A sure con­ver­sa­tion starter, I just love it, and vis­it­ing each year the town where my fam­ily lived in a town of just 2700 peo­ple, was some­thing Lena and I have both found an ab­so­lute joy.

Just think of how you greet peo­ple you pass go­ing in the other di­rec­tion. Is there a glance, a nod, a greet­ing? Do you say hi, hello, good-day, good morn­ing, Salaam Al­laykum, or do you sim­ply smile? Do you not smile? Are you one of those Grinch-like char­ac­ters who couldn’t smile if you were paid to? Urgh!

If you know some­one, or are in­tro­duced to them, do you shake hands? Did you know the hand­shake was be­lieved to have orig­i­nated over 4,000 years ago, as the means of trans­fer­ring power from an­cient deities to earthly rulers? Well that’s one story. An­other is that trust­ing strangers would show that they had no in­ten­tion of us­ing their swords or dag­gers by prof­fer­ing their right hand in greet­ing as a sign of good­will. There is no men­tion of how left-handed war­riors greeted oth­ers in the his­tory books!

His­tory also records that in an­cient Assyria greet­ings, re­spect and peace­able in­ten­tions were demon­strated by re­mov­ing the cloth­ing from one’s up­per body. Gosh, it would take a while to walk down the street wouldn’t it? Dur­ing the Mid­dle Ages, and later in Europe though, it be­came the fash­ion to bow in­stead of tak­ing your clothes off! Tip­ping your hat, touch­ing the fore­lock, and a nod came later as ex­pe­di­ency took over.

But even a hand­shake can take so many dif­fer­ent forms can’t it? In the West, a strong hand­shake is an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity, as it demon­strates your strength and supremacy over an­other (well, that’s the his­toric ver­sion), and most of us have had our hands crushed at some time. Mean­while, here in this cul­ture, a hand­shake is a very gen­tle act of no more than a touch. Then through the 70’s till re­cently a ‘high five’ was a com­mon greet­ing. It’s all quite fun!

Hi, hello, and the like will never be the same again will they? Oh, and did you know that “Good­bye” is a short­ened ver­sion of “God be with you?” Till next week, bye.

It was al­ways fun to watch from a dis­tance, as ev­ery pos­si­ble sce­nario is played out over a very brief pe­riod, and it’s amaz­ing how it proved a very ef­fec­tive ‘ice­breaker’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Oman

© PressReader. All rights reserved.