It Ain’t The Meat, It’s The Motion

(Listen to this post, here.)

The first job I had after graduating from college was as a bank teller at the Brookline Savings Bank in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I do have a liberal arts degree.)

It was a great job – the best one I ever had, before or since.

Fast-paced, varied, independent, and thanks to the fact that at the end of each shift you were responsible for “balancing” all the transactions, it had a built-in means of determining how successful you had been over the course of the day.

It was also very social. This was the early 80s – the days before ATM machines and credit cards were in common use.

Unlike today (I can’t remember the last time I stepped inside a bank lobby), back then, people of all stripes went to the bank, all the time. It was a cash-based world; if you needed money, you had to come see me.

As a result, I had dozens of short “conversations” with customers every day. And depending on what was happening in the world at large, the conversations were nearly all the same.

Snowstorm coming? People would talk about how much was expected.

Michael Jackson releases “Thriller?” People would ask if I bought the album yet.

Heading into Super Bowl weekend? I guarantee you that the conversation would be about little else.*

[*Other than maybe the fact that there was a five-year-old kid named “Tommy” out on the west coast somewhere who, in about 20 years’ time, would be showing up here in New England to make our football dreams come true.]

But why?

Why were these people chatting with me about anything? Why not just hand me your paperwork, take your cash, and move on?

The answer, I think, is because that’s what people (especially Americans) do. It’s natural, it’s friendly, it’s a little bit fun.

And yet, when it comes to you – a professional service provider creating content and interacting with clients and others in the course of doing business – the tendency is to omit all that friendly, chatty stuff.

“Oh, well, that’s different,” you’ve no doubt just said out loud to your wondering-when-you’ll-ever-leave-the-house-again cat.

“I don’t want to waste people’s time.”

“I don’t want to look unprofessional.”

“Nobody cares about my personal life, this is business.”

Business Isn’t Just About Business

Nobody came into the bank because they wanted to talk with me about the weather. If there were no money at the end of the interaction, they wouldn’t bother.

By the same token, nobody consumes your professional content or interacts with you because they care about whatever might be going on in your life. They are there to learn, or hire you, or get something done.

But here’s the odd thing: When you wrap that useful information inside some chatty, storytelling stuff, you make a connection that’s way stronger than the information could ever manage on its own.

People start to feel like they know you. Which is just around the corner from trusting you. Which is a stone’s throw from hiring you. Which is … you get the picture.

And there’s more going on here than just shooting the breeze. As Robert Cialdini points out in his book, Pre-Suasion, A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, “We like those who are like us.”

So when you tell a story about something that happened to you, or mention a few specifics about your life, those who share that same experience feel a bond.

It’s no different than when you meet someone who attended the same college, or has the same birthday, or is married to the same … okay, maybe not that last one. Similarities amplify connection.

Here’s the bottom line.

You are not in the business of selling idle chit chat. But idle chit chat is how selling gets done.

And while it may make little logical sense that sharing personal information in a business setting leads to more business, when it comes to humans, logic is never at the front of the line.

Hmm… maybe that psychology degree of mine has turned out to be more valuable than I realized.

Discussion Questions:

  1. On a scale of 1- 10, how much do you love Tom Brady (Non-New Englanders, feel free to use negative numbers)?
  2. When was the last time you went inside a bank lobby?
  3. Did you own the “Thriller” album?

Share your answers below…

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36 thoughts on “It Ain’t The Meat, It’s The Motion

  1. Carole Seawert

    1. Being from the UK, I have no idea who he is.
    2. Can’t remember. It was that long ago. But it was to complain that my card had got stuck in the machine.
    3. Yes.

  2. Julie Lancaster

    1. I guess 7. I like that he is one sports guy whose name is so famous that I know what sport he plays.
    2. A few months ago. I avoid ATMs, but I love the drive-through, staffed with real people. (Although yesterday we noticed that they have the cameras at the drive-through positioned for taller vehicles so that, as my husband pointed out, we look like Kilroy at the bottom of the screen. )
    3. No.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I didn’t actually own the album either. But it was EVERYWHERE, so I was not wanting for Michael Jackson music that year!

  3. Graeme Roberts

    Tom who gives a fig.
    Maybe 6 months ago.

    I used to think that you would bottom out and never have anything more to say, but you are bottomless, which is a very good thing. And I still laugh and love your posts after ten years or more. Thank you! I am thinking of believing in Santa Claus.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Thank you for staying with it for 10 years, Graeme. Now if you could please contact my children who regularly complain of the repetitiveness of my jokes!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Twice in one week we are in contact, Ken! Looking forward to showing off your newsletter in next week’s event.

  4. Doug Johnson

    1. 10 – I can’t understand people who don’t admire talent, regardless of whether they like the team he’s on or not.
    2. Last week.
    3. Yes.

  5. Carol Hillegas

    1. 5 – I don’t particularly like him, but I can recognize immense talent and longevity when I see it. That being said…GO CHIEFS!

    2. Early this year, closing out a safety deposit box.

    3. Yes. And I still do…in a box…in a closet.

    Great post Michael!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      If Brady were not in the mix I’d be with you on the Chiefs. Either way, it’s nice to have a game that is worth watching beyond the spectacle itself!

  6. Louise Desaulniers Proctor

    Hi Michael,
    I definitely affirm, psychology degrees are more valuable than you realize! 😉

    1. if he doesn’t play hockey, I don’t care about him
    2. 4 years ago, maybe
    3. might have had the cassette

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Louise! My old psych class buddy. Great to hear from you. And despite our years in Canada, I never figured out the appeal of hockey.

  7. Mark Walker

    Hey! #1/ On Brady, amazing to have such a consistent talent, and personally have to give the guy 100+%. But I guess it gets a little boring for football fans…
    #2/ Two weeks ago! The drive-thru was backed up. Did my deal in under 5 min. I remember the days of the friendly teller, and even if it was a drive-thru back in the day, you got to know them a little.
    #3/ Nope, never Thriller, but I did have the 45 of Billie Jean. (Actually a fan of Big Al’s spoof on Beat It!)

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Funny to think, Mark, that we would go to all that trouble to play one song at a time on a 45! But you definitely paid attention to it when you did!

  8. Terry Matlen

    1. I know he has something to do with sports. Or The Brady Bunch show. I’m so not into sports- sorry. Last year, I tried playing Pickleball and the very next day, we were in lockdown. That’s how dangerous I was. Actually, I fell and fractured my knee. Perfect time to be in lockdown.

    2. Maybe 8 months ago. Had to open up a new account for my mother, because…oh…that’s just too boring, so I’ll stop here.

    3. YES! In fact, I have an autographed copy that’s framed. No, I didn’t meet Michael- I bought this in NYC when I was building my autograph collection. Anyone want to buy my collection? I have two Katharine Hepburns (I wrote her a letter and she responded. Before she died of course); all of the Beatles (NFS!!!!), Yoko (wrote her a letter, too), and tons more.

    *Side note: Michael, I love your newsletters and am going to try harder to incorporate more of me and my life stories into them. You are so right- people are intrigued with people.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I hope you do, Terry! You listed a number of great stories right there in your post: Famous people writing back (I did the same with athletes when I was a kid), fracturing your knee, etc. I’d like to hear about all of them!

      1. Terry Matlen

        Michael, you know the story about me being on stage with Paul McCartney? He invited me up because he liked my sign. “Can I Touch Your Bass?” (I x’ed out the B in Bass). Happened in 2016: .

        I blogged about it, tying it in to my ADHD audience but I think I could have done better. Or re-do it go my newer subscribers- I dunno.

  9. Harold Waisel

    1. 9 (and I really liked the Mean Tweets he read the other day on Kimmel)
    2. Well over a year ago, and I don’t even remember why
    3. No to Thriller. And never heard the Meat/Motion song until today. Thanks for posting that.

  10. Carole Cudnik

    1. Neutral on Tom Brady since I really don’t follow sports. I need to find a “Football for Dummies.”
    2. It’s been maybe a year or so, but I prefer going to the bank than calling complicated issues that can’t be handled by the app. I’m from a small town where everyone knows everyone (for the most part), so I like the human interaction.
    3. I had it on cassette. Lost it at some point when I joined the military (which is code for saying my kid sister confiscated most of my stuff LOL).

  11. Thea Dunmire

    I live in Tampa Bay and love Tom Brady. Partly for team loyalty and partly because he is “old” and I appreciate success of the “aged”.

  12. Maggie Schuette

    1) I have to like Tom Brady a bit. His mother, Galynn, was born and raised in Browerville, MN – 20 miles from where I grew up. In flyover land, we grasp fame where we can. Mahomes’ dad pitched for the Minnesota Twins from 1992 – 1996. Look! Grasping at more fame! I’ve used up my exclamation points!

    2) I go to the drive up for a dose of human contact. I need to talk to someone.

    3) I don’t own “Thriller”, but will always cherish the Weird Al parodies. No one makes music like that anymore. I had a friend in vo-tech who had the red leather pants and jacket like Michael. He could actually pull the look off, but I don’t remember if he could dance.

  13. Kathy

    8 He makes people I know happy.
    Last time I needed quarters . . . Or to get something notarized
    No, but I remember loving his music.
    Fyi during a summer off from college I worked as a teller at BayBank in Arlington. Mostly a low key job until I was robbed when working there.
    I also got a Liberal Arts degree, a BA in Psy.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Interesting. I was robbed too! Two guys (maybe the same ones who got you). Scary, but interesting to chat with the FBI guys who arrived on the scene the next day!

  14. LJ Miller

    1. Well, I don’t know about love…that’s pretty strong. But, you certainly have to respect the guy and his abilities. I guess I’d have to go with an 8 or 9 unless my team is playing him.
    By the way Maggie. I’m originally from MN and learned a lot about the ties of Brady’s mom and Mahomes’ dad. Yes, we do grasp at fame wherever we can, don’t we?
    2. I truthfully can’t remember when I was last in a bank lobby. I guess when my debit card was compromised and I needed an emergency replacement. That was a year ago last July, I believe.
    3. Gosh, I do NOT own “Thriller.” What does that make me? Is it good or bad?

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      #3. Maybe just tell people you are too young to remember Thriller, and you’ll be off the hook, LJ!

    2. Maggie Schuette

      My favorite writer, Jon Hassler, was born in Staples, the same town where I grew up. I don’t know if he’s famous, but I hang on to the thought if he can do it, so can I.
      As for famous, we will always have Prince. Louie Anderson too!

  15. Kristine Schroeder

    I’m not a football fan, but if you ask some hockey questions, I can answer them!
    Being in middle school at the time, I OF COURSE had the Thriller album! I always wanted “parachute pants” like MJ wore, but alas, my mother would not buy them.
    I live in small town USA, so I went into the bank from time to time before COVID.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      On the hockey side, despite going to college in Montreal and having to watch a lot of it, I still really don’t understand what “icing” is.

  16. Jo

    1. Well, I know Tom Brady and his connection with Super Bowl, but I’ve never been much into football.
    2. The last time I was in a bank lobby was in 2018, applying for a HELOC.
    3. MJ Thriller? Nah… but he was such a cute little singer. Loved “Got To Be There”.


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