By Robert Van Arlen
Senior Advisory Group
Building a strong relationship with the people you do business with is an incredibly important and useful tool, but it takes time to build.
I have lots of "friends" on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn that range from my grandmother to my car mechanic. It's great to be able to keep in touch with the people you're close to and have conversations with people you normally never would, but this huge leap in communication has caused a bit of a problem. Now that we're talking to more people than ever, we've begun to shift our speech and have started using terms that I call "impersonal pseudo-names.” Read on to learn what this means.
Believe me, it's a daunting term, but hear me out. It seems like everywhere I turn I'm being called "man" or "buddy" or someone texts me and just says "hey." While I think it's great to have that kind of communication with a select group of people, when you communicate like that with everyone, it doesn't make everyone feel like they're in your select group.
It makes everyone feel like an afterthought, like you're being impersonal.
Let's imagine a scenario: you're sitting at Starbucks and an old friend sits down in front of you, looks you straight in the eyes and says "hey," and that's all. They just sit there and stare at you.
You feel a little awkward and take a second to respond — but before you do, again they look you in the eyes, and say "hey," like you didn't hear them. That's an awkward situation, but it's the type of situation we all deal with every day through digital communication, like texting.
Countless times I've received the "hey" text and, not having time to respond right away, received another just minutes later. Whatever happened to sending someone more than just one word in a message? Texting someone "hey" doesn't tell them why you're contacting them, what you're doing, what you'd like them to do.
It's essentially pointless communication, and it makes the person you're contacting feel like you're not attentive to the conversation.
Even with friends, that type of conversation is a bit weird and awkward. In a business environment, that conversation would be absolutely detrimental. Wouldn't you prefer to get a text that said "Robert! How's your day going? I was wondering if you wanted to grab lunch?" rather than just "hey." I know I would. It seems like everywhere I go, people are putting on this faux face of friendliness, and talking to you like the two of you are best pals. I absolutely love when someone greets me with a smile and a hello, but I find it a little unprofessional when I walk into a business environment and a stranger walks up, pats me on the back, and says, "Hey, buddy."
Building a strong relationship with the people you do business with is an incredibly important and useful tool, but it takes time to build. In a professional environment, it's a good rule of thumb to assume that not everyone is going to be as comfortable with the same level of casualness as you are.
When you meet someone for the first time, don't try and be the hip 80s business man and be touchy-feely, just greet them professionally. If they respond in a more casual way, that's a good gauge as to how you should behave around them in the future.
In the business world, you can be impersonal without ever having said anything along the lines of "buddy," "pal," "man" or "hey" just by being "fake."
"Fake" is a pretty broad term, but what I'm referring to is putting on an unrealistic persona of over-friendliness. In general, people are smart and see right through that sort of thing. Instead of sending a message of friendliness, the people around you immediately begin to mistrust you and become unsure of your intentions.
Whether through your persona, words, or actions, just be a genuine person, and I promise you that people will warm up and enjoy your company. Oh, and don't call me "man."
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