Chronicle Startups

Day 97 and Socializing Professionally

If you know me well then you know I’m not a natural people person. Despite being both an optimist about the human potential for progress and generally being a happy person, I think a lot of people suck. I know it’s a shitty outlook.

Maybe it’s because I just don’t have the energy for socializing. Big gatherings are not my thing, even though if you met me casually at a party you’d probably think I was an extrovert. If I’m putting my time aside for you it’s because I really enjoy it. The people I spend time with have to be great. They teach me something or have a unique point of view or have great emotional capacity. Most folks just don’t seem to enjoy putting themselves out there. Or maybe it’s that they simply don’t want to offend you so never really say anything of interest. I just don’t care what shit you bought or what your constantly over scheduled activities happen to be (though this has become less true in the pandemic).

I really don’t want to go back to socializing as a professional prerequisite. I hate having to tell people how I am. No one actually wants to know. I don’t really enjoy holding my tongue. Professional events generally require you to keep quiet about how much you think someone is bullshitting.

I’m often a huge hit on panels at conferences because I don’t give canned responses but wow does that make more polished people squirm. I once made the mistake of telling the truth at a Goldman Sachs retail conference. The analysts went wild. The poor CEO next to me looked like she wanted to die. It’s easy to tell when someone is using a script and talking points when the person next to them is just talking without a filter. Humans like truth and honesty it turns out.

I really hope we don’t go back to constant networking and prioritizing people who are naturally socializers. I hope the pandemic broke some of that tendency towards rewarding the constant parade of events, cocktails and ever more exclusive gatherings. But I’m sure there will be a massive correction where everyone loves real life experiences again. But once it reverts to the mean let’s all agree to be a little more judicious in our asks to “meet up” in the future. I’ll send you a Harry and David’s gift basket if we can continue to see less of each other.