I have recently attended my 30th year anniversary of my Year 10 High School year with an awesome bunch of people, many whom I still consider great friends to this day. This in itself makes us a unique group I think, as all too often people lose track of their childhood friends, but many of us, no matter where we are in the world catch up often, and when we do, it’s like we were still at school- only older, greyer, fatter or skinnier! This was our 3rd ‘official’ catch up in the last 4 or 5 years and as each one goes, we get a few newbies and lose a few of the oldies, but again we had another great night.
But what does this have to do with business you may be asking? Not a lot, but a few observations did have some relevance, and made me reflect on the dreaded school reunion that many fear. Maybe when it comes to reunions, you need to simply focus on the ‘old days’ and not show too much concern for the current day! There are a few danger zones to consider, as I will explain….
Danger Zone 1 – What are you doing now?
This one appears to be a safe question, but can be high in risk. When you read about reunions, there is lot of anxiety about this question. If you are not working, or feel your job may not match expectations it can be an uncomfortable one to answer. The person may feel the need to extend the truth to save face, or they may lie to cover up a success, or simply not want to answer. No one wants to be put in the difficult position at such events, so maybe a safer “How’s things going?” approach can work better, as then they will tell what they want to tell you, then get into all the old school, war stories and have a laugh!
Danger Zone 2 – What happened to X or Y?
This question is getting close to the personal side of things and has the alarm bells going off. Asking about partners, friends etc can be met with personal pain if they have divorced, died, or are not a part of their lives any more, so I try to stay clear of this one…full stop!
Danger Zone 3 – How’s your business going?
I ask this question a lot to people, because it is what I do..I help people in business. Knowing someone is in business, I would assume makes it a standard question, at least so I thought. I learnt this is not the case, and may be taken the wrong way and caused a sense of interrogation or ridicule. Having finally caught up with old friends of over 30 years gives me a sense of enjoyment, and knowing what people have done – good or bad, doesn’t overly worry me, and when you catch up with someone who has done so many amazing things, that you use them as a role model to your kids and you know what they are up to, my natural insticnt is to ask them about it.
I did this, and it wasn’t met with the response that I expected, in fact the complete opposite, which took me by surprise, and put me on the defensive. This made my reunion with this person a bit tense, but I hope it was all clarified and seen as water under the bridge. But upon reflection I did learn a lesson, that maybe I shouldn’t make this a ‘normal’ question in my arsenal. Again, maybe having the approach to let them advise of what’s going on instead of probing is a better option moving forward. By the way, I still think this person is awesome and will continue to talk about them in high regard as they are a true success in my eyes, as well a a ‘top person’.
Reunions are great if you have a great bunch of people from that common environment. People will choose to come or not come, and many simply don’t want to remember all those events that happened many years ago, as often their is a lot of pain there. Some people had bad experiences at school and simply want to forget it. What I love about our group is that we have people who are probably closer now, and mingling with people who they simply never would have back in the school days, so in my humble opinion, our group is stronger now than ever.
After 30 years, I think we have ‘come of age’…..or if you know me, you would probably still not believe this in my instance…I am still that 15 year kid running around in an old mans body!