Emotional Rescue

Unlike many of my married, male friends, I do a fair amount of the household grocery shopping.

Not because I’m so wonderful, mind you (although I am distractingly good looking).

Rather, it’s because years ago, as a first-time father, I realized that a trip to the grocery store came packaged with 60 minutes of diaper-free peace and quiet.

And so, all these years later, it’s still an activity I share with my wife, Linda.

But, as you’ve probably noticed, grocery shopping today is a totally different experience than it was just a few short weeks ago.

Part of that, of course, is because of the new procedures that have been put in place:

The aisles are all “one-way.” 

The checkout lines are marked with tape on the floor, spaced six feet apart. 

The cashiers stand behind plexiglass.

But, as different as they are, those kinds of things are not really what makes today’s experience feel so alien. 

After all, grocery shopping in another country also tends to come with its own set of logistical rules and norms. But even with a language difference, it all still feels remarkably familiar.

What’s fundamentally different now are the masks and social distancing, something that creates what my friend Brad calls an “emotionless experience.”

Nobody smiles. Nobody chats. Nobody touches anyone else.

It’s like visiting your in-laws, minus the questions about when you intend to get a “real job.”

Grocery shopping was never high on my list of fun things to do. But now, suddenly, with the social aspect gone, leaving nothing behind but the mechanics of finding what you need and putting it in your cart, it has become an exceedingly boring chore.

And even though I arrive home with more or less the same items as before, I would happily drive further and pay more to get the old experience back.

Business is a Social Activity

Nobody signs up for your newsletter because they want to hear a story about your children.

Nobody registers for your presentation with the hope that they will see a picture of your dog.

Nobody subscribes to your podcast to hear the cheesy intro music you’ve chosen.

And yet, when you leave all that stuff out – because you’re a serious businessperson talking to serious businesspeople about serious business topics – you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Rather, you are building an emotionless grocery store: Functional, useful, maybe even necessary. But lifeless, boring and replaced without a second thought the minute something better comes by.

Definitely not an experience people look forward to, talk about and enjoy.

Here’s the bottom line.

To me, the one thing our current situation has highlighted is how important a role the human, personal, and social aspects of business play.

So sure, you need to be capable and qualified in order to succeed (Congress being the notable exception).

But the reason you get referred, introduced, hired and word-of-mouthed generally, is because in addition to all that, people like you and feel that they can trust you.

That doesn’t happen because of the books you’ve written, the colleges you’ve attended, or the brand name clients you’ve worked with. We all know highly qualified people that we run from at every networking meeting.

It happens because you’ve somehow managed to break through all the professional blah blah and make an emotional connection.

Pay attention to that, particularly now, and people might be willing to drive further and pay more for you, too.


Discussion Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite way to hide from young children?
  2. When do you intend to get a “real job?” Explain.
  3. What role does emotion play in the way your market your business?

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20 thoughts on “Emotional Rescue

  1. Hollis

    This topic is everything. I feel it so much! Thank you for the reminder that all the little personal touches really are everything.
    1. Hiding by taking long showers, have never been so clean.
    2. Hoping my ‘real job’ starts paying like a real job soon.
    3. We share a lot of personal moments, family things, celebrations but also the not always rosey parts of business ownership too. People love to know they aren’t alone and the perception of perfection does no one any good.
    Emotion for the win!

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      That’s cool – love the family photo on your web site! (Good tip on the long showers, as well.)

      Reply
  2. Roger

    Once in a while…the perfect analogy is speared on the end of the fish hook. It’s all about the experience….and I dissolve into feeling the same exerience WITH you in your tale of shopping woe. And, I have never even had to deal with nappy-avoidance!

    And I can’t help adding… I miss the hunorous exchanges and updates, hugs as well, at my local Trader Joe’s! (A grocery store that get’s it, and me, as a place that is in theory a supermarket, but it can’t be…..’cause it’s fun to visit!). Best, Roger

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I agree about Trader Joes. Interestingly, I went there last week (instead of my usual generic more local market) and they still managed to make it kind of fun. Lot of staff talking to people in line outside and one long snaking parade inside. I was impressed by how they kept the trader joes feel even with all that has happened. (although I sure miss the free samples!)

      Reply
  3. Tara

    Congress-
    1. I like to pretend that I’m using the bathroom to hide from the kids.
    2. Now that my family has finally (after 13 years) accepted the fact that professional photography IS a real job, I’m moving toward being a full time farmer with my family. Here we go again with the eye rolling and, “well, is there money to be made in that?”
    3. Emotion plays a huge part in selling the professional photography experience- almost too much for my taste.
    Now selling farm-to-table goods is a personality experience. People want to know and trust their farmer. But I’m happy for it to be a little less emotional than weddings…

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Sounds like a nice new focus. I can’t imagine there are many things more high pressure than having to make sure you don’t mess up somebody’s wedding day photos!

      Reply
  4. Stacey

    1. We don’t have children. So I guess by not having them, we’re hiding.
    2. “Real” jobs are overrated.
    3. Emotion is everything in how I market and promote myself which is why this new way of living, working, meeting is creating grief and loss for me. I will get through by doing more videos.

    Reply
  5. Stephanie Kiefel Patterson

    1. and 2. My favorite way of hiding from young children, when mine were young years ago, was going to work at my “real job” (federal gov’t technical writer). But the kids are now grown, and I’m retired from Uncle Sam, so no more need to run and hide!

    3. I’m not a very demonstrative person when it comes to emotions, but I do slip little vignettes of family life into my newsletters–such as my sons’ favorite TV show growing up and my husband’s family story about his great-grandfather helping St. Patrick chase the snakes out of Ireland. So quirky sorts of stories that everyone can relate to.

    P.S. I’m lucky in that my local grocery store (Publix) hasn’t had the life completely sucked out of it; the staff members on the whole are still very cheerful and chatty. I notice the emotionless reaction (you got that so right, Michael) when my husband and I are out for our mostly daily walks. We say “good morning” to everyone we pass. Some folks return the greeting, but many look away and seem to pretend you’re not there. As if you could catch the virus just by getting looked at! To me this is perhaps the greatest tragedy of this situation–that so many will not even acknowledge the presence of fellow human beings.

    Reply
  6. Mark Reilly

    This is so true – I tell my staff this all the time – be yourself, use your personality. During this time I find people are yearning for that connection. I enjoy asking perfect strangers how they are making out and what fun stuff they may have uncovered with new found time.
    1. I do the dishes and clean the kitchen – EVERY night – my Zen time
    2. I have a real job – I am looking to get a “Fake” one.
    3. I try my best to be empathetic as well as sympathetic. I do my best to relate what their issue is with a story about how we all have this issue, but maybe in a different context.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Sounds like some good guidelines in there, Mark. Although I don’t know, I might take childcare over dishes every night!

      Reply
  7. Jean F

    No kids, no husband or boyfriend, and all events cancelled. While the days as a freelance writer are much the same as usual, the evenings and weekends are lonelier than I would like. Here folks wave and sometimes say hi while walking around the neighborhood (even people I don’t know).
    I’ve made a point of emailing clients to wish them well. Most have replied, sometimes with an assignment. They are happy to be thought of.
    Socially, my film club meets bi-weekly via Google Hangout and a cousin organized a weekly worldwide Zoom meeting. Even though I don’t know most of them, they are nice, smart, and funny. Sometimes there are assignments (wear a favorite t-shirt, tell a joke, bring a cocktail).

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Sounds like you are pretty much doing what we are all doing. I have a few regular, friend Zoom meetings now too, which have reconnected me with some people who are not local (but nothing matches having a beer together in person!)

      Reply
  8. Gina Longo

    1) Never had kids, but if any come into view now, I make like Baroness Bomburst and call the child catcher, just to be on the safe side. 😉
    2) I had a real job. I didn’t like it. No more real jobs for me!
    3) I’ve never been overly emotional — social distancing comes naturally to my introverted self — but I’m forcing myself to do videos (livestreams on YouTube, even!), and the cheeky sense of humour seems to come through pretty well.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Interesting to see how people have learned/developed new skills and approaches with all this. Cheeky sense of humour is always a plus, too!

      Reply
  9. Brigitte Richard

    1. To pock the back of their crib.

    2. You mean a “9-5”?
    Not for me thank you.
    Around the clock yes,
    24/7 365 days a year yes,
    but a “9-5” NEVER!
    I hope you heard me.
    Enough said I have to get back to work right now.

    3. Huge! You’ve got to keep people smiling,
    the grumpies,
    the apathetics,
    the angries,
    the boreds,
    the losts,
    … lift the mask…
    give them a grin!

    Reply

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