Recently, I had a couple friends from out of town stop in for breakfast as they were passing through Nashville. My friend Carolyn came over early to join in catching up with our friends and, more importantly, to ensure that I didn’t burn the bacon.
Our visitors updated us on their work lives.
One works in the public health field and the other works to alleviate child hunger through the nonprofit sector. They told stories of children they’d helped and life-changing projects they’d worked on.
When the coffee was gone, we cleared the table and contemplated holding our friends hostage before reluctantly sending them on their way.
We finished up the dishes, making small talk about where the pans go and filling the silence with clanking ceramic and a running faucet.
I was happy to have Carolyn with me.
After we’d put the last plate away, Carolyn made some comment about how amazing the work our friends do is and before I really knew what was happening, she’d burst into tears.
You see, Carolyn is a meeting planner.
And a really good one, at that. But often, and especially on this day, she can feel stuck when the conversation revolves only around what people do. Not many people understand meeting planning, nor do they know what to ask next when the ever so common “so what do you do?” is posed.
So my friend ends up feeling stuck.
She ends up feeling like her occupation is the only way she can connect with people, and if they don’t find her work interesting enough, then she must not be very interesting.
And that’s a lie, of course.
But it got me thinking. Carolyn is one of the most interesting people I know. It’s why I want her around when I have friends over and why I call her first when I’m looking for sound advice. She knows how to meet you in deep waters and pull you back up for air without panicking or judging how you got there.
She shows up more than any friend I have.
And that’s exactly how I’m going to start introducing her.
I don’t mind being introduced based on what I do, but I would argue an introduction opening a window to who I am would be refreshing for both parties.
What if instead of introducing your friend as Jennifer the nurse, you started introducing her as Jennifer, one of most thoughtful people you know, or Jennifer the friend who helped you move in when you didn’t know a soul in this city.
Introducing your friends for who they are rather than focusing on what they do will remind them they are loved before and beyond their titles. It’s an easy way to remind them that you see them for their hearts instead of their accomplishments.
Our resumes are just paper.
I want people to know my friend Carolyn is amazing at her job, but more than that, I want people to know the stuff inside her that makes her a great friend. The stuff that makes you want to stand by her at a party, in hopes that her thoughtful observations and quick wit might rub off on you.
Let’s stop introducing the people we love based solely on what they do, who they cash their checks from, or what’s on their twitter profiles. Let’s instead start reminding them of who they are. Let’s start conversations that don’t begin and end with who has the most interesting job in the room.
Networking builds an empire, but thoughtful introductions build a community. Where will you lay your bricks?