Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are You Responsible for Your Friends Behavior?

About 4 years ago a friend of mine, I’ll call him Henry, e-mailed a bunch of his contacts. He said he had just finished reading a book called Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time  by Keith Ferrazzi and he suggested that anyone that took him out to lunch could have a copy of the book for free. I thought it was a pretty incredible and unusual offer and I came home from that lunch with a great book.

The gist of the book was about sharing your network freely and openly and after reading it, it sent my own connection gears into overdrive. Most of my friends have, at one time or another, gotten an e-mail from me where the subject bar reads SUBJECT: FRIENDLY INTRODUCTION. In the e-mail, I introduce two people to one another and explain why I think they should know one another. I’ve done this thousands of times through the years.

Right after I read that book, I connected Henry with an artist friend of mine. The artist stood Henry up twice and Henry was pretty pissed at me. I didn’t see the connection. Once I made the introduction, wasn’t the connection out of my hands at that point? It wasn’t like I was introducing a guy to a potential girlfriend where my vouching for the person might endanger her safety. (If you're interested in this topic in particular check out Andrea V Lewis' blog) This was simply business right? Wrong. According to Henry, the actions of the flakey artist directly reflected on me.

After that experience, I became a bit more cautious in how I handled my network switchboard. Though my new approach went against Keith Ferrazzi’s philosophy, my new path was eye opening. By pre-qualifying connections I was actually ensuring the strength of a connection.

What I found was this. Most artist’s are flakes when it comes to time, organization and business skills. (Sorry artists, it’s true) If I connect an artist who doesn’t show up on time with an important business connection, then I’ve wasted my time and my business connection’s time.

But there's more to the story than meets the eye.

Flash forward 4 years.

Henry asked me to team teach a workshop for his organization on a topic that I am extremely passionate about. He had another friend whom he thought would be a great co-teacher. Guess what happened? This great co-teacher scheduled a time to meet with us to discuss the proposed curriculum and he left us waiting in a café. He no-showed - twice. The co-teacher had great excuses, but Henry was understandably upset and apologized though I saw no need to. I simply do not think that a business connection reflects back on the connector.

This is what I have found in terms of those who "no-show" to meetings.

If our mission is not aligned with a proposed topic, then something interesting happens. We will unconsciously create a series of distractions that will prevent us from making the meeting.

For instance, if you asked me to give a talk about men’s gymnastics (I competed in the sport from middle school through college) I would probably say “Yes” and then when the time came to speak, I would either forget to show up, get delayed at the bank which would make me late, or something else would come up, etc. I simply am not passionate about the topic, even though you might think I’m qualified to speak on it. My mission does not include gymnastics anymore. If you asked me to speak on the topic when I was in college, when it was part of my mission, I would have probably driven across the state to speak for free.

The same goes for Henry. He was in a fraternity in college, but I doubt he would want to give a talk on the topic since the core of his mission now is on social issues. If he didn’t say no right away, he would create circumstances that would prevent him from following through.

And so although Henry thought this co-teacher would make a great addition to a this seminar, this co-teacher should have said no. When things like this happen now, I simply see through it for what it is. It’s not a priority for the co-teacher because it’s not a part of his current mission. It's not good or bad, just a reflection at something deeper.

I think when we see through the noise to what is really going on, it helps us see our own role in how things play out in our lives.

What are your thoughts on this? Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear what you think.

For more info about "The Neon Man and Me" and other storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit www.slashcoleman.com


  1. Our subconscious will conspire to block us from doing things outside our mission.......hmmmm, that is a very, very interesting perspective. Makes sense. Definitely gives me food for thought in terms of what I ask people to do and who I seek to connect people with. Very enlightening. If it is true though, then it is also true that if one of my friends leaves another hanging it is a reflection on me in some way, because it means that I was not as effective as I could be at understanding others' missions and extending opportunities/invitations that are in the flow of their calling.

  2. I do like your premise about the subconscious blocking us. This seems to me to come from a place of deeper understanding about things, and while I am not certain about the premise' use universally, I think it is accurate toward understanding ourselves.

    This is the first of your blog that I read, and I enjoyed it. I have been working on two blogs lately, and I would love to know what you think of them.

    The first is a collaborative work with three of my friends, to showcase our efforts: http://thefourcornerscollective.blogspot.com/

    The second is a personal blog on which I have been working in an effort to manifest a little of my own creative destiny. Any feedback you might offer will be very appreciated!

  3. Great topic.

    I could think and comment on it all day.

    I see this phenomenon quite frequently, but not necessarily with the introductory party involved. I think the same mental process is at work.

    At the risk of sounding self righteous, I reject the notion that an intelligent individual does not have the ability or the responsibility to recognize when a connection or request falls outside of his or her mission, and simply decline the offer in the first place. I believe this is the point at which a conscious decision is made and an informal contract is established. Any seemingly unconscious obstacles or disruptive misfortune that ensue are merely a tactic for someone to break the contract and avoid the attendant feelings of guilt and lowered self esteem. To chalk this behavior up to something beyond one's control is too generous. I'm not saying that someone who does this is a bad person, but someone who lacks self awareness and perhaps emotional maturity.

    Assuming that the person making the connection is not strong-arming the invitees, it is much better to say no and save everyone the time and energy involved in setting up and dealing with the roadblocks that ultimately lead to calling the whole thing off. For every bit of misfortune that leads to the breaking of an appointment, I can point to an equal bit of misfortune that I found out about after the appointment was kept.

    As for the original question, I think it is unavoidable to bear some responsibility for the connections we establish. A reasonably astute person can be expected to know if someone is prone to this "flaky" behavior and not initiate the connection or at the very least issue a caveat to the other party before the introduction is made. There must be some statute of limitations on responsibility. Is it anything beyond the first meeting? Certainly the person making the introduction is not responsible for the overall outcome of the relationship.

  4. HP - I think there is more going on then what does or doesn't appear at the table. And we may have less control, if any at all, in those decisions.

  5. Anonymous - Thanks for weighing in on the topic.

    I like that you wrote, "There must be some statute of limitations on responsibility."

    Since I wrote this entry, I found myself struggling to be on time to a couple of events an had to take a look what was really going on. A business mentor of mine once said I should only do the things I want to do and give the rest to someone else.

    His concept never worked that well for me because life seems more complicated than that. I often times find myself saying Yes, when I mean No and going to meetings where I'd rather go to sleep on the train tracks.

    But I guess for me it's a lot like parents telling a kid to "Eat Your Peas." Sometimes when I'm open to whatever may happen, all kinds of cool things may occur as a result.