As I sit here in my favorite pizzeria, Anzio's, having downed one too many of the tasty circular sectors, I notice someone walk in the door that I recognize. It is the owner of a local auto repair chain, and a prominent member of the local chamber.
We've met a handful of times; his blank expression says that he either doesn't recognize me or doesn't want to acknowledge my presence through eye contact. Either way it is fairly strange behavior from someone in sales.
Now, ordinarily I might re-re-re-introduce myself, but I've gotten some very peculiar vibes from chamber people. Like they don't know me, and don't want to. There's something very icy about meetings that they and other organizations do as networking-for-networkings-sake events.
When someone doesn't want to acknowledge you it probably isn't worth a second thought. Like this blog entry. Ah well. No harm, no foul.
The second thought is this. I contrast his behavior to that of a sales clerk. During a visit to the local Tiger Direct, uh, sorry, "CompUSA", turning to speak to my son I heard someone say, "hey, I know you". Looking back, I immediately recognized a guy who had visited the Raleigh-Durham Web Design Meetup several months back.
The guy had taken a sales clerk position after a business venture failed to come together. We chatted briefly about a common problem of finding resources to pursue projects, about networking, and his new job, then he showed my son where some cables were.
What's the difference between these two people's perception of me? One was approachable and open, and treated me as a peer; the other was absent and closed, and treated me as a total stranger. One was searching for business, the other had inherited his business from his family. One seems to have more money than the other, but I'm more likely to get leads and business from people who are open like the sales clerk than people who are closed like the auto guy.
We can and do affect how people perceive us through our initial contacts with them. On the other hand, no amount of contact will alter a person's integrity. Some people are just going to play you. Others will maintain an adversarial position and keep a poker face on, no matter what your intentions, altruism, or openness. It is best not to let those ones in.