Comedian Dennis Miller is from Pittsburgh, and whether you think he’s funny or not, he said one thing that has always resonated with me. When asked about is home town, he said something to the effect, “When you meet someone from Pittsburgh, you have about 20 seconds to prove whether you’re the real deal or not.”
While this may be true anywhere you go, what I believe Dennis meant was that not only do you have only 20 seconds, but more importantly, to Pittsburghers it matters. The town cannot be compared to San Francisco, in terms of aesthetics, though it has some really great vistas. And fakery isn’t as broadly accepted as it is, say, in Hollywood or Washington. Rather, Pittsburghers tend to put a high premium on genuineness, and they reward it with open receptiveness and warmth.
Anyone who’s lived in the area for any length of time knows that it’s always best to be straight with people when letting them know where you’re coming from, and in return, they’ll be straight with you in letting you know where you stand.
In the early days of my career, I found that this approach to communications is a major asset in cutting through the clutter. When I worked for a large, national PR firm, the Pittsburgh people tended to win clients’ trust more often because of this trait. There were a few times when clients from other cities preferred to deal with Pittsburgh people over some in firms closer to them geographically as a result of this comfort level.
So if you want to save some money on professional development and you want to sharpen your communications skills, next time you’re in Pittsburgh, just take a few minutes to chat up a taxi driver, a waitress, or a cop on a beat. Chances are, he or she will give you a good 20 seconds to make that first impression, and in return, you will get the feedback you need to know how well you’re doing. I guarantee it.