Straddling generational lines.
I’m going to be thirty-eight years old in a few months. I come from a generation that knows what a pong set-top box is, remembers life before VCRs (let alone DVRs), and knows that a PS/2 is both a video game console by Sony and the third generation of PCs made by IBM. I played tag outside and downloaded songs from Napster. My first computer had a cassette drive and less memory than your coffee maker. I stand on the cusp of two different worlds. I was raised with computers, but still know life before them. I’m neither 100% digital (I finally faced facts and digitized my CD collection), nor 100% analog (I hate hand-writing anything). I am not always cutting edge technology wise, but I’m not clueless either.
I think I stand in a unique position; if I were slightly older, I would be less digitally inclined and if I were slightly younger, I would be more immersed in the digital world. It was only when I got into real estate that I finally broke down and got on Facebook. I had avoided the Myspace craze (although my band did maintain one – all I ever got out of it was a endless stream of “thanks for being my friend” comments and spammer wanting to advertise their wares) and didn’t really see the point.
Friend or acquaintance?
To me, a friend is someone special. They are the type of person I call just to say hello and see how their lives are going. I spend birthdays and holidays with them. I want to tell them good news when I have it and often share bad news with them when it occurrs. They knew me personally and I care about their life – past, present, and future. We are friends and not just acquaintances.
Acquaintances are those people I meet in passing. I might see them regularly, but there isn’t necessarily a connection. There is a step missing that brings them from acquaintance to friend. Sometimes that step materializes, sometimes it doesn’t. An acquaintance is someone I would be more than willing to say hello to, perhaps even share a cup of coffee with, but there is a level of separation between us. I don’t share my secrets with them, I don’t tell them about my personal problems, and I wouldn’t invite them to Thanksgiving dinner.
So who’s what and how do I know?
With the integration of my digital and analog selves, I’ve had to look at the word friend in an entirely new light. I have lots of friends according to places like Facebook and Twitter. Even on AgentGenius I have a lot of friends. Right? Wrong? Ugh, how confusing. Last week, I wrote about dropping your motives and embracing the people around you…making meaningful connections. This helped prompt Ken Montville’s “Your Client Doesn’t Care: A Contrarian View” in which Ken opined that your clients don’t care to be your friends, they just want your services (and excellent ones at that).
I don’t disagree with Ken…at least not at face value. However, my opinion, much like my generational status, straddles a fine line of definition. Are the clients, strangers, customers, consumers, and denizens of the internet my friends or simply acquaintances with a new title? Does the word friend often get confused with the word acquaintance?
The people in my sphere of influence can be from either group. For some, I know more about them than I do about the average person – there is a slice of “care” in the definition. Sure, I care about all my clients, but this is the kind of care reserved for friends that I have known for years. For others, I care for them as a client, but I wouldn’t necessarily invite them to my wedding. There is a difference. Could they both be called friends? Most likely they would, but there is a definite difference.
In our online world of friends and followers you could easily make a Venn diagram that shows how some online friends belong to your social network of friends (as defined more traditionally) and some to your network of acquaintances.
The Lost Art of Acquaintances.
With so many friends around us, maybe the art of being an acquaintance is being lost. I like for my clients to be my acquaintances – more than a stranger, but not immediately a friend. They may become friends, but that point is irrelevant. The point is to know them better than a stranger. To not walk them through the door of my office, shake hands, sign the paperwork, and thank them as I collect a commission check and head to the lobby to greet my next client. To get to know them a bit. To talk to them on a personal level. They might shop at the same grocery store as me or love my favorite restaurant too, but that is not what they’re seeking (agreed Ken). They want me to be the best real estate agent on the planet. To ignore those common-bond ties though is to deny any level of human relationship, something I think is counter-productive to both work and life in general. My clients might not want to go to my favorite watering hole for a beer, but they might feel more comfortable knowing we share a common interest.
So don’t aim for best friends forever status, but be the acquaintance. Be the one who knows more than the stranger. Be the one who shares a common interest. Take notice and care, yes, but there’s no need to throw yourselves at them screaming and pleading “Be my friend!” I never meant to suggest you have to take your clients home to meet your parents, but you should know your client…at least as an acquaintance.
photo courtesy of StuSeeger