1. The person dressed in your clothes.
You’re at a party happily chatting away in your new H&M summer blazer or Zara floral print summer dress when the unthinkable happens: Someone strolls by wearing the exact same thing, shattering the fragile illusion that you’re a snappy dresser with individual style.
THE RULE: Both parties immediately launch into a single round of paper/scissor/stone. The loser has to go home or get changed.
2. The inescapable chat.
You get on a train/bus/tube. You spot a person you know, but with whom you share zero affection and minimum rapport. All you want to do is sit quietly and play Candy Crush on your phone, but it’s too late — you’ve locked eyes and sat down next to them. Your journey is 40 minutes long.
THE RULE: The last person to get on board has to feign a reason to get off at the next stop, then change carriages.
3. The hug, kiss, or shake?
At the workplace, it’s simple: shake, nod, smile. Congratulations: You’re introduced. But in other cases, it starts to get awkward. A handshakes seems a bit formal and a hug seems like a bit much. Cheek kiss? OK — but how many? If you go for one, she goes for two, and you accidentally leave her nuzzling air, you’ll have no choice but to kill yourself, spoiling the very social gathering you’re there for in the first place.
THE RULE: Let’s settle this once and for all: right-handed shake, left-arm shoulder pat, and a single left-cheek kiss. EVERY SINGLE TIME.
4. The premature goodbye.
You’ve concluded a successful date/social gathering/business meeting and made a fond farewell. All the best, you say. Take care. Hope that thing you mentioned works out. Bye. Then it dawns on you — you’re walking off in the same direction. THIS SHIT AIN’T OVER.
THE RULE: A race over the first 10 meters determines who gets to go ahead, and who has to wait behind for a five-minute time penalty.
5. The long hello.
You spot someone you know on the street — fantastic! You actually really like this person! And exchange a wave, setting up a stop and chat. Problem is, they’re still 100 yards away, so now you have to spend a good minute walking directly toward them. Where do you look? What do you do with your face? Are you supposed to smile at them THE ENTIRE TIME? Nightmare.
THE RULE: Heads down after the initial wave, with a follow-up nod every 10 meters until you arrive.
6. The Tweet meet.
You’re at a party and you spot someone who looks vaguely familiar - particularly when they keep their head perfectly still and look directly ahead. Then it clicks. This is a person you’ve swapped childhood memories with, someone you’ve laughed and debated alongside, someone you’ve showered with praise like a giddy cheerleader. And yet this is someone you’ve never met. This is someone from Twitter.
THE RULE: To restore normality, you turn your backs to each other and shout nuggets of reconstructed wit over your shoulder in 140 character bursts.
7. The unwanted Facebook add.
Someone you barely know has added you on Facebook. The options are simple: Allow a near stranger access to every photograph of you taken in the past five years, or risk that when you next see them knowledge of your rejection will pass between you in an unspoken moment of excruciating social agony.
THE RULE: A substantial real-life bond comprised of at least three meaningful conversations should occur before anyone adds anyone on Facebook. The obvious exception to this are the people who raised you from birth, who shouldn’t add you full stop.
8. The multi-hello.
You’ve spotted someone at a social occasion you’re on friendly terms with. You exchange a brief hello. Then you see them for a second time. You do the warm smile thing. You see them for third time. Now you deploy the raised eyebrows to acknowledge the encroaching awkwardness. Then, against the odds, you pass each other a fourth time. And your head explodes.
THE RULE: From the third time onward, a wordless high-five will pass between you.
9. The forgotten name introduction.
One of the human brain’s fondest tricks is enabling you to recall every word of the Fresh Prince theme 10 years after you last heard it, but to utterly reject the name of a person you’ve met in the last 30 seconds. No problem. This is why we invented words like “buddy,” “mate,” and “my friend.” But for some horrific reason, when someone else you know shows up, protocol dictates you have to introduce them by name.
THE RULE: Simple. Never leave the house.