Connecting Authentically: Making Friends, not Acquaintances

Last month, I received my first credit card from a major bank.  Normally this would be a notable experience, but not one worth writing about on a blog concerning filmmaking.  However, there’s a plot twist in the story that is worth sharing and perhaps taking a lesson from.

You see, I was denied the credit card.  I filled out the form, it was sent off for review, and I heard back shortly after: they said “Nope, sorry.”  It’s not that I was a high risk to them—they were just ambivalent about me.  Yet here I am holding it in my hand approved for use.  Why?  Because when I first walked into the bank, I connected with the people inside.  I made friends.

I believe that the ability to connect with people is a skill that is not being practiced as often as it should be or used to be.  Sure, there are plenty of people that are still great at this, but in a world of over-saturated information and constant social media, I’m sure that number is (ironically) decreasing and “ connecting ” often devolves into watered down habits of casual “liking” and updates that leave an unsatisfactory feeling of disconnection.

I’m surely not a master on connecting with everyone—with you—but it’s something I try to practice and grow in consistently.  Because, honestly, don’t we all want to feel connection?  We have a need and desire to be understood, heard, and cared about.  This is a deep part of why I love storytelling through film: it gives people something to connect with.  But that’s a different topic for another time.  Back to the credit card.

I walked into my local branch with a few questions written down, but it wasn’t about “I need to be somewhere in 15 minutes and can we please hurry this up?”  Impatience and foot-tapping with somewhere that you always have to be next is the quickest way to put up walls between those you interact with and it makes authentic connection impossible.  What it signals to everyone is two things: first, that they don’t deserve your time and attention, and second, that you and your needs are somehow better or more important than their own.  This is one of the quickest and most common ways that people constantly miss seeing each other.  They will quickly shut down on you, and good luck connecting with them after that.

Sure, I could have done just that.  I had other errands to run.  I then would have had a hurried, perfectly polite conversation that would have gotten me out the door 45 minutes sooner.  I also probably wouldn’t have a credit card or as good of friends at that bank.  Instead, I had a friendly conversation.  Not just a couple surface questions and responses, but full-fledged rabbit trails and tangents about each other that you don’t normally see during a quick check-up or service provided.  And this is really the whole point: If you take the time to get to know each other, you’re going to care about each other.  Before I walked out of that bank, I knew about the manager I was talking to, and he knew about me and my specific journey and needs.

Because of this, when he saw my ‘Denied’ results come in, he cared enough about me to get the right people on the phone, conference me in, and ask them to re-evaluate me right then.  Bam—I was approved.  And that right there is awesome, but I need to clarify right now that the credit card reversal decision was not the main thing gained.  It was the friend who got that decision made.  If I were in the business of making friends for the sake of what they can do for me and how they can be assets to my life, I wouldn’t be making friends.  I would be using people. And trust me, many humans can often tell phonies a mile away.  My motive wasn’t to get to know the manager to raise my odds of successfully acquiring an important piece of plastic.  But my odds did in fact get raised as a byproduct of sincerely engaging with him.

Of course, this technique, for lack of a better word, of authentically engaging with the people around you, from employees of a bank, fast food joint, retail store, or a P.A. or Director on a film set, is worth practicing with everyone and on a day-to-day basis.  If you actively care about other people, then often—not always, but often—they will care about you in return.

No, I’m not perfect.  Many times I still look at people and don’t see them for who they really are.  I fail, consistently.  But that’s not grounds for shrugging my shoulders and giving up.  Instead, I make it a consistent goal to keep applying myself towards growing in this area.  I think it’s too important and too essential to a full life to not do so.

4 replies
  1. Samuel Neff
    Samuel Neff says:

    Apologies, Gerd. There was an update to the site that temporarily broke the “Read More” functionality of the blog. It’s all fixed now, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the post. Cheers! -Samuel

  2. amanjot palaha
    amanjot palaha says:

    Hi Samuel,

    came across a well articulated and considered comment you had put on nofilmschool regarding “your not a story teller” and clicked through to your site. i found this a great read, refreshing really, it’s something i think it needs to happen more, connecting with people, becoming friends and not acquaintances, and, quite frankly, giving a shit, lol. Thanks, Amanjot

  3. Samuel Neff
    Samuel Neff says:

    I’m optimistic that more people will be doing this over time, as they realize that real relationships work better overall, in business and in life. Thanks for the feedback Amanjot!

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