Four Talking Points to Friendship
The four-point introduction deserves a comeback on campus
Name, hometown, dorm, concentration. In the nascence of college life, these four talking points guide many a friendless freshman through awkward encounters with other equally lonely first-years. The four-question introduction sees its heyday during pre-orientation, when wide-eyed Harvard newcomers, equipped with campus maps and crimson lanyards, use the icebreaker with as many classmates as humanly possible. Sometime during the semester, however, this practice of shameless self-introduction and curious inquiry ceases. It is nonsensical for us to terminate generic introductions so soon, which means it is time for the four-point introduction to make a comeback on campus.
This impersonal introduction has several key advantages that must be explored. Having similar academic interests, living in the same dorm, or hailing from the same geographical region all provide the foundations for a budding friendship. Fledgling amity is almost always in desperate need of commonalities around which conversation can be sustained. A shared interest in “folk and myth” or “that new major…you know, the stem cell one” can lead to a prolonged discussion of class selection and Q ratings. Residence in the same dorm can spark listing everyone else that lives in the building, in hopes that a mutual friend can be identified. Better yet, discovery of a friend from one’s own stomping ground lends itself to reminiscing over the best local eateries.
The four-point introduction covers all the bases for potential shared interests in fewer than 20 seconds. No other icebreaker is nearly as efficient. By hitting all of the main talking points in such rapid succession, the awkward time when neither person has little to say is mitigated. Before long, both people know enough about the other person to produce makeshift conversation, which can lead to anything from mere acquaintance to best friend status.
In addition to its speed, the formulaic nature of this particular greeting is so widely acknowledged that people quickly grow accustomed to it. This makes meeting new people not only easier and faster, but also less intimidating for those who are shyer. For those who find socializing fairly difficult, the application of the four-point method can smooth any encounter by providing conversation when none exists otherwise. Through speed, predictability, and impersonality, this brief verbal questionnaire can facilitate the extroversion of the meeker among us.
This basic conversation starter also serves to ease the formation of cross-clique friendships. Whether we admit it or not, it cannot be denied that social bubbles develop quickly. These groups can be based upon anything from a sports team to an entryway. Such bubbles may inadvertently intimidate others who fall outside the circle. In this instance, the four-point introduction can be key to fostering friendships between cliques because it is, by its nature, so general that relationships can be built between almost any set of people. In that sense, this particular greeting deserves a comeback to ensure the fluidity of relations on campus. Insulation in one particular bubble is not conducive to the establishment of a welcoming social life on campus, and so the four-point introduction is needed to facilitate more diverse friendships.
The four-point introduction plays a pivotal role in the expansion of Harvard students’ horizons. Though some may criticize this technique as vapid and impersonal, the bottom line is that these two aspects of the introduction may be the keys to its success. It is the generic nature of this greeting that helps build new friendships—relationships that may grow into lifelong companionships.
John W. He ’13, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Weld Hall.