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The Business and Social Need for References

As a native Bostonian (or at least Bay Stater), I often meet people who are from another part of the country and state that Bostonians are cold and mean, unlike people from other parts of the country, and that I’m “different and not like them”. I counter that I’m exactly like the other natives here, but as I have to translate concepts so often in my work, I’m better able to articulate the differences to others in terms they understand. After a particularly interesting talk I ad on Friday (thanks David!), I figured that it world probably be best for me to put my thoughts on writing. This post is basically a continuation or further development of my post on Chilly New Englanders.

My main point is that New Englanders have good boundaries. Sometimes a little to recalcitrant and difficult to penetrate, but they are are a part of who we are. We’re pretty aware of others and when we’re being invited in, and when we’re bring intruded. We give people space and wait for them to give us a signal. This Is very different from the warm welcome that most people from the Southern US do automatically. A comment I heard from a Southerner is that they want to be seen as welcoming. From a Northerner’s perspective, it’s an invasion. We want to know who we’re talking to, and what connections there might be.  My mind goes back to a very old formality that used to be common: The Calling Card.

It used to be in ages past, if you were going into a new city or starting in a new community, you would bring a calling card with you that introduced you to people and it would be from someone that they already had a relationship with.  You then knew that this new person was one that you already had something in common with.  While it might have been one of “good breeding” back in those days, a big thing was that you could talk about the same things.

In our modern times, we have the same thing.  Think about Yelp, Amazon, or any of the major social media sites.  You can ask about a business, product, or person, and figure out what their reputation is.  You don’t just pick up any book, movie, restaurant menu, etc.  You’re usually looking to see if you have some connection to it.  Has this actor performed in something else you liked?  Does the owner of this restaurant own another one your friend ate at and liked?  In our world, we’re constantly looking for references.  Just in New England, we tend to still do it for social reasons.  Does this person also like the Red Sox?  Does she also knit?  Does he do genealogy?  We’re looking to see if we have something in common, so we know we’ve got a good likelihood of getting along.

So, where do you get your references?

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