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February 9th, 2015

Several years ago I was asked in a Washington Business Journal interview about the best and worst aspects of networking in D.C.  The answer was the same, “It’s a really small town.”  So if you’re well-liked, it’s great because the word gets around.  And if you’ve messed up, guess what!  I constantly meet people who know me (or of me) in the most unlikely places – metro, airports, even the Lion King-the-musical (and yes, those hyenas are just as scary on stage as on the big screen!) 

Recently, a business friend generously invited me his law firm’s company event at the Kennedy Center, where I promptly ran into someone who knew me as a teenager!  And if the fact that he instantly recognized me (decades later!) wasn’t startling enough, he promptly reacquainted me with my former boss who is now a client at his firm!  The fabulous news is that I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see them both, but the thought of how small this town is rivals the scariness of the hyenas!   I walked away from this experience even more convinced that you have to be nice to everyone you meet since… birth! 


For a while I thought maybe these things only happen to me – my friends and associates always insist that I know everyone.  Not true, it’s just that I’ll talk to anyone anywhere!  However, this incident happened to a business associate (let’s call her Susan).  Susan was invited to a house-warming party by a client whom she helped to purchase that house.  She was particularly excited to meet the client’s husband who was working overseas and only participated in the process by phone.  Somehow she ended up on an unfamiliar rout and was driving slower than the speed limit.  She noticed someone tailgating her quite closely and persistently through the streets.  In irritation, Susan pulled over with just enough space for the other driver to pass.  As he drove by, Susan glared at him and honked angrily.  When she finally got to the party, she was mortified to notice the car that tailgated her in the driveway.  It turned out that the driver was her client’s husband who had ran out to get more ice and was hurrying back to the party!  Needless to say, Susan doubts that these people will retain her when it’s time to sell the house.


My most-favorite small world scary story though has to do with salsa dancing.  Occasionally I do try to get out – my apologies to anyone whose toes may have been sacrificed in my quest for balance!  When I worked in my last corporate job, I danced quite a bit to release stress.  One evening I was feeling grumpy due to a particularly unpleasant interaction with my boss (no, it was definitely not the same fabulous boss I just ran into – although that would have made the punch line even sweeter!)  I remember getting quite impatient with a tipsy, arrogant man who was being rather pushy.  I wasn’t too worried about putting him in his place because I figured, “I’ll never see him again.”  You suspect now where this story is going, don’t you?  Several months later I accidentally ran into this person again in a completely different social situation.  As I reluctantly began to converse with him, I found out that he worked at MY company, and what’s more, was heading up a high-profile project I had been hoping to work with!  Somehow I managed to make a favorable second impression and he actually helped me get on that project.  But you can imagine how disastrous this could have turned out for both of us. 


So the lesson, ladies and gentlemen, is “Be nice to everyone ALWAYS!” both in person and behind their backs.  Because you never know when someone you randomly meet ends up being your roommate’s friend, client’s husband, or even your boss!  Please do your best to be kind, compassionate and patient with people around you.  It is a VERY small world and excellent interpersonal skills are non-negotiable in our truly small DC community. 

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