Last Friday I was visiting a couple who recently retired and had sold their business. As they no longer had business premises. I met with them (and their cat) at their home. The cat had been abandoned and had been rescued as a kitten. The cat was asleep when I arrived but woke and came over to me so that I could stroke him and scratch his back, before going back to his chair to sleep again. I was told he normally reacts badly to strangers.
So, why did he react so differently to me?
I suppose that I don’t really know the answer to this question. We do have 4 feral cats of our own who live out in the garage. We have an old cat that after about 15 years now, allows us to stroke her at her discretion, but don’t try to pick her up. The “youngsters” only arrived about a year ago and are probably only 2 or 3 years old. You definitely will not manage to stroke them. Having said that, they are very curious and friendly, and one will rub up against your leg when you are preparing his dinner. They have learnt to tolerate us but don’t go anywhere near them with anything resembling a pole because they will run.
Did my client’s cat react to me in this way because I treated him like I would one of our own cats? I gave him time and space to walk over without reacting to him or watching him (like a hunter might do). Have our own cats taught me how to treat a cat in this kind of situation, without me really being aware? I think that must be it.
Does that mean that you can learn something from every social interaction? Presumably, if you can learn something from a semi wild cat, you can learn a lot more from people. I have often said that every day is a school day, and I frequently follow that up by saying that there are not many days that you do not learn something new about human behaviour. I also think that it is true that this is probably the most important skill in business and is the reason why some of the most successful people in business, were mediocre or worse at school. Their classroom was the playground, and what they learnt there was more important to their success in business than almost anything they learnt or did not learn in the classroom.
While we are talking about first impressions, anyone who reads my articles will know that I say that everyone needs a Lauren. Lauren is the account manager at Adder that looks after all our social media and email postings so that all I need to do is prepare the material, and then Lauren does the rest. Get your own Lauren, you cannot have mine!
Anyway, Lauren and I have been emailing back and forward, with an occasional phone call and I think perhaps one Zoom meeting, every week for nearly a year, and I finally got to meet her briefly at a BNI morning meeting this week. Was she as I expected? Was I as she had expected? Now therein lies some questions.
On Zoom and in emails you develop an impression of another person, but you really need to meet them “in the flesh” to get a more rounded view. Zoom is good but there is one trait that does not come across, and that is their height. It can be quite disconcerting when someone is shorter or taller than you anticipated. Isn’t social interaction funny? I am sure someone will explain it to me some day. Until then Helen will keep me straight.
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Alan E Long
The Long Partnership