Dec 7, 2006


The art of hiding in plain sight.

The other day, I wrote a post about mimicry – the attempt to appear as someone or something we are not.

Camouflage is another basic form which deception can take. Camouflage is also widely used across a variety of species. Unlike mimicry, camouflage involves an attempt not to be recognized or be seen. It is an attempt to blend into one’s surroundings – to go unnoticed.

And as luck would have it, today I ran across an ad for Schott’s Almanac, which contains a section closely related to camouflage in social interaction. Their take is a little different, however, in that Schott’s Almanac offers advice on how not to recognize someone you know in passing, referred to as “The Cut.”

But, their advice on how not to recognize someone, also seemed to be applicable to not being recognized. So, I thought I would embellish upon some of their “Cuts” and add one of my own -“The Cut Inanimate.”

The Direct Cut – directly stare at the other person, but without giving any hint of recognition. A high risk move, which only the best can pull off. It is probably wise to use this strategy as a last resort, in tight, confined spaces and when one has already been spotted.

The Cut Indirect – look the other way and pretend that you never saw the acquaintance. Slow, natural movements are advised. And it helps if the direction you glance toward actually has something of interest to look at. Avoid the temptation to glimpse back over at the other person to see if he or she is still there.

The Cut Sublime – use an object of some sort to distract one’s attention away from having to acknowledge the other person. Looking at one’s watch, picking-up almost any object, or pretending to use one’s cell phone will usually suffice. Based on person experience, however, if using a cell phone, it helps if it doesn’t ring while pretending to talk on it.

The Cut Inanimate – pretend not to be alive. Break eye contact, put on a blank face, decrease breathing, stop all body movements, and patiently wait for the encounter to pass. This strategy happens to be used quite frequently by the students in my classes.

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