You Lost Me at Hello

Remember the movie Jerry Maguire? Renée Zellweger blubbers to Tom Cruise, “You had me at hello.”

But when meeting new people and making a connection with them is how you make a living, what are the chances that the connection is made that easily or quickly?

To have someone at hello, everything your Knower/Judger knows has to align with everything the other’s K/J knows. But as participants in my Clarity Summits learn, our K/Js are full of things imprinted by culture and family.

Some languages don’t even have words for concepts that are easily spoken in other languages. For example, though the Japanese have what’s considered a very compliant culture, they have no word for the English word “compliance.” The Eskimos have no word for “war.” The Pueblo Indians have no word for “religion.”

Then there are the familial imprints. Which way the toilet paper leaves the roll (my personal favorite). Our concepts of money (Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad is an excellent treatise on this). Our opinions on sex. Diet. Religion. Gender bias. How we treat salespeople. How we interact with our fellow man (birth order, parenting, and siblings all contribute to this).

So I ask again: what are the chances that all these stars align and you find a person (girlfriend, new client, new boss) who can truly say “You had me at hello”? Not very high, I’d say.

When interacting with new people who may be important in your life, you have the benefit of a blank slate. They don’t have any opinions of you nor you of them. So far, so good. Now the fun begins.

You stand before each other puffing out your K/Js, feeling around for synergy. Take, for example, a man who was walking across a bridge and came upon another man standing right on the edge, about to plunge to his death. The first man shouted, “Stop! Are you a Christian?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact I am.”

“Well so am I. Are you Catholic or Protestant?”

“I’m Protestant.”

“Well so am I. Are you Episcopal or Lutheran?”

“I’m Lutheran.”

“Wow! I am too. Are you ELCA Lutheran or Missouri Synod Lutheran?”

“I’m ELCA Lutheran.”

“Me too. That’s amazing! Were you LCA or ALC?”

“I’m LCA.”

“I can’t believe it. So am I. But tell me, are you a German Lutheran or a Swedish Lutheran?”

“Swedish Lutheran.”

To which the first man said, “Die, you heretic!” and pushed him off the bridge.

If you keep comparing your K/Js, you’re simply guaranteed to find the disconnect.

So how can we handle early conversations to avoid losing people at hello?

Stay in your Learner/Researcher persona. The more you espouse your K/J knowledge of the world (as people sometimes do to impress new contacts), the higher the likelihood that you will trip over one of your new important person’s rules of life. And while the meeting might end civilly, getting the second one may be difficult because you’re just not one of them, and you’ve proven it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I suspect there’s no environment where improving trust and understanding pays off better than in these early relationship conversations.

Meeting someone new? Leave your knowledge at home. Resist the judgments and connect. Worked for Jerry Maguire! Now show me the money!


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