Fireside Chats: Connections

A few weeks ago, the question came up about how we respond to requests to connect from someone who just uses the default request form on one of the social media sites. Nothing personal is written, and no particular reason is given for wanting to connect — there’s just that default request to connect.

The writer mentioned not accepting anyone’s request if there was no personal note to say why a connection was wanted. And apparently the writer sometimes let the other person know why their request to connect was being declined.

I was surprised at that, because to me it doesn’t matter. Someone who writes a personal note to connect does catch my eye. But does that mean that person is more worthy of being a connection than someone who clicks “ask Susan Rooks to connect”?

No. Not to me.

Here’s my deal: I’m a teacher at heart. I teach American grammar and other “exciting” communication skills courses, and I love what I do. My goal from the beginning of this blogging effort (over two years now) has been to reach as many readers as I can. Why?

Because I want to help all business pros look and sound as smart as they are.

It’s hard enough to persuade / convince writers that a professional should look over their work regularly (or at least occasionally) to make sure they’re not shooting themselves in the foot by leaving out words, using the wrong words, or making any type of goof that will reflect badly on them as writers and experts in their field.

How much harder would it be if from the beginning you didn’t like me? That you found me standoffish or remote? Since my job sometimes means I have to persuade a client to use a different word or phrase to make a point, believing that I have your best interests at heart is critical for our mutual success.

I’ve been mulling this whole thing over for a few weeks, and for whatever reason, I suddenly thought of my folks mentioning FDR’s Fireside Chats to me when I was just a kid. (Yeah, sometimes my brain amazes — amuses — me, too.)

My folks talked a little about listening to the chats back in the early ’30s, when they were both old enough to marvel that the president of the U.S. would talk to so many Americans about what was going on in the U.S. in such an informal manner.

It was a marvelous use of radio, something that apparently 90% of Americans had access to by then, and for those who did it was a way to learn more about the man who would go on to be our only 4-time president.

He began many of the nighttime chats with the greeting “My friends,” and referred to himself as “I” and the American people as “you” as if addressing his listeners directly and personally.

Of course, not everyone agreed with FDR and his policies, but what my folks remembered most was how FDR sounded when he spoke. Folksy. Friendly. Familiar. They said their own parents often felt comforted by the thought that FDR was doing all he could to get the country out of the Great Depression.

Why is this important? Because he was seen as one of the family. One of the good guys. Sure, he was the president, but the way he spoke in these chats, the language he used, and the stories about our Founding Fathers that he wove into his speeches made him sound reassuring in the midst of great pain (the Great Depression) in the country — something many of his listeners apparently appreciated.

From the wondrous Maya Angelou:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

How many of us see the value in being a regular Jane or Joe? Not leading by dominating and making others feel dumb, but by helping? By treating others with great respect, as we would have them do with us? Wouldn’t we want to be seen as we truly are: welcoming, and someone others want to hang around, to talk with, listen to — to hire?

For me, it all comes down to perception: If I make you feel unworthy in some way, you aren’t likely to want to work with me. You’ll just move on to someone else who makes you feel welcome and valued. Even worse, I will have gone against what I truly believe: Showing kindness is the only way to behave. I would go against my principles if I were to knowingly hurt another person.

And I just can’t see a downside to accepting 99% of the invitations I get to connect. Isn’t that why we’re all on these blogging platforms? To connect with others? Let’s face it: We never know who knows exactly the right person for us and our company; why would we not be happy to connect with so many others?

The best part is that I learn from many others who are smart in areas I’m not, something I’m really grateful for.

What are your thoughts on this?

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