I was introduced to Mr Schmooze the other day.
He’s a PR guy whose name dropping skills impressed me. He had a way of weaving the names of extraordinary people into ordinary personal stories.
I asked him if he ever tires of socialising for a living? What I mean, I explained to him, is that I’d rather nosedive into concrete than come across as a schmoozer.
We live in the age of visible, virtual and virulent social networks, he said. Knowing how to navigate this necessary activity is a skill that can be practiced with taste, discretion and even ethics. The trick is to avoid engaging in vulgar means to facilitate your rise. Everybody is a rung on somebody’s ladder.
It was a truth so bluntly spoken that I had to take down his advice:
1 . It’s not what you know, but who you know: This old platitude is not only facile but also dead. Now it’s what you know, who you know, and what you know about who you know and what who you know knows, too. Not to mention, knowing what else and who else you ought to know. Is that clear?
2 . Social climbing is far safer than mountain climbing: Getting to the top of society is like getting to the top of K2, except you can stay there, usually among the delicate peaks of comfort. It’s an adventure. It’s a game. It’s a sport. And in case you should fall, you won’t die; you simple relocate and start over.
3 . One-upmanship. Or, the lost art of the snub: If society is like a game show, then its contestants must outsmart each other to rise to the next level. So don’t kill other players. Just put them on ‘injured reserve’ with a sportsmanlike attitude that will take you to your goals – whether you wish to be steered towards wealth or redeemed by the esteem of others.
4 . Yes. Socialising is work: Partying is hard work. Don’t think of it as anything else. This is where you shine, where you put your best foot forward and catch new eyes. Successful partying means you can jump the queue, advance directly to GO, and collect $200.
5 . Party seriously. Seriously party: Since parties are work, take them seriously. It’s okay to be the life of the party. It’s okay to showcase your hidden talents. It’s not okay to belch the contents of the evening on the carpet. It’s not okay to be a wallflower. Mix. Fix.
6 . Don’t underdress. Don’t overstay: It’s better to be overdressed than showing up with just your attitude. People will assume you are either going to or coming from somewhere. And don’t overstay. Coming early helps to pitch to sensible persons before they become insensible.
7 . A friend is a noun. Not a transitive verb: Traditionally, friendship required time. It was not granted instantly. But thanks to social networks’ digital exploitation of our lives, friends appear less and less like people and more like data. So avoid friending someone. Try befriending, instead.
8 . Friendship with louts, cads and the far less than perfect: If, over the years, you’ve maintained some surprisingly lengthy friendships with some seriously flawed persons, take note. As we grow older, we become more intolerant and more demanding of our time. Even friends have sell-by dates.
If they’re unfit for social consumption, hit the pedal – of the trashcan.
9 . Name dropping. Name forgetting: If you’ve got to drop a name in the course of your narrative, do it right. Use the last name too. Don’t make your listeners guess. You’re enough work for them already. And choose a significant other with better recall. Forget a name, they’ll forget you.
10 . Cultivate the right enemies: Having the right enemies is as important as having the right friends. It shows you have standards and guts. But like friendship, hostility should be a one-on-one thing, not a group thing. So don’t expect your friends to support your animosities. If their name comes up, just shrug and say, “we don’t speak”. Then leak the vitriol intriguingly as years go by, artfully revealing the flaws of your nemesis without apparent rhetoric.
Inspired by The Style Guy’s Guide to Friendship, Schmoozing and Social Advancement by Glenn O’Brien, GQ, April 2011.