November 30th, 2009
Thanks to career expert and blogger Marci Alboher. She posted a link on Facebook to a Wall Street Journal piece, An Old-School Social Network, which chronicles the “Wednesday 10,” a group of men, then in their twenties, who convened their first meeting in 1957:
“The Wednesday 10 comprised, at various points, more than 20 men; the goal was a number small enough to maintain intimacy yet large enough to ensure that at least 10 members would show up for each of the monthly Wednesday-night meetings. No more than two representatives of any one industry were permitted. The idea was to combat insularity, to keep the men connected to people and events outside their own professions.” Continue Reading »
November 22nd, 2009
If anyone out there knows Susan Dominus, please introduce us. Her stories invariably revolve around key concepts covered in Consequential Strangers. My neighbor Joan, on whom I can always rely to clip stories about consequential strangers, had saved Dominus’s piece, Happy Times at the Dog Run, Now Coming to an End (New York Times, November 7, 2009). It centered on Dick Sebastian, a surgeon-turned-dog-portraitist who, with his wife Susie, had become part of a community of dog owners’ in Washington Square Park. (It sounded a lot like “the path,” where I walk my dog in Northampton, Massachusetts.) Continue Reading »
November 14th, 2009
Remember how annoyed we were when people first began having cell phone conversations in public–baring their secrets, going over grocery lists, breaking up with lovers, fighting with the phone company? Actually, according to a recent New York Times article, One Rude Turn Deserves a Swat, we still are, and we’re fighting back. But perhaps there’s reason to believe that there soon will be fewer offenders out there. Continue Reading »
November 12th, 2009
Karen L. Fingerman, my academic collaborator, and Calvin Morrill, one of the scholars whose work also contributed greatly to the foundation of Consequential Strangers, are quoted today in a New York Times article, Window Watchers in a City of Strangers. The article makes the point that we have always been fascinated by other people’s life–a preoccupation captured in Hitchcock’s Rear Window and more recently in project by Gail Albert Halaban, a fine art photographer who created Out My Window NYC. As Ms. Halaban put it:
“In a large city where there’s a lot going on around you, it can feel very isolating and lonely. By having contact with these total strangers through the window, it’s a safe way of having a relationship without the hard part of a relationship.” Continue Reading »
November 11th, 2009
In ancient cultures, according to sociologist Lyn H. Lofland, strangers were routinely viewed with suspicion–in the extreme executed for the “crime” of being unknown. Parisians, it seems, haven’t come far since then. They are excessively polite, but they aren’t interested in outsiders. I didn’t want to believe that–but my stay last Christmas certainly reinforced the stereotype. I couldn’t wait to leave and did so after sixteen days, muttering under my breath, They’re right about the French.
I was determined that this trip would be different. Haven’t I written advice about raising your social IQ? I can’t say I’ve been totally successful in breaking through the French resolve, but people do seem “nicer” now And since they probably haven’t changed, I must be doing something different. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Bring a dog with you. This is the only guarantee of starting a conversation with a stranger. In fact, I’ve learned to let my six-pound poodle walk in first. If all of Paris is Studio 54, Bogey is on “the list,” not me. Seeing him, every waiter, every shopkeeper brightens and coos, “Ooooh. Qu’est-ce qu’il est mignon! [Isn’t he sweet?] Entrez! Entrez!” and then finally looks in my direction, tolerating the human. In Paris, dogs rule–even visiting dogs sense it. Bogey trots down the street here as if he’s returned to his homeland.
Speak their language. I’m relying on my meager and long forgotten high school French, but it helps to at least try. Then again, my word retrieval is poor, my grammar poorer. I know how David Sedaris felt when he wrote about his struggle to master even rudimentary French in Me Talk Pretty One Day. Case in point, yesterday when I accidentally bumped into someone on the street–“bumped into” as in “collided with,” not “ran into an old acquaintance”–I put on my most contrite face and blurted out, “I’m sorry to me.” Or at least I think that’s what “Je me desoler” means! Continue Reading »
November 6th, 2009
A so-called green business doesn’t just recycle or minimize its ecological footprint. It’s also one that fosters real connections between employees, with suppliers, and between staff and customers. It takes care of its “people.” Business literature is rife with stories of what happens when companies care only about the financial bottom line. See my entry about General Motors.
In contrast, the green model, which is part of the sustainability movement, is mindful of a “triple bottom line”–profit, planet, and people. “Success” is not just about dollars and cents. It’s also measured in terms of a company’s impact on the environment and on the people it serves–its consequential strangers. (See “Sustainability Through a Social Lens”)
- The people piece is why Zingerman’s deli in Ann Arbor trains its employes to look customers in the eye and it’s why the store involves itself in community projects and programs. (Zingerman’s is covered in Chapter 5.)
- The people piece is why the highly successful Internet shoe retailer Zappos assembles such a diverse workforce and inspires new employees to take such good care of customers. They feel like “partners” in the business.
- And, the people piece is what prompted an unexpected union between a company that promotes beauty and a journalist who specializes in relationships. That would be me. The company is Lancome. And our first date is on November 17.
Continue Reading »