Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I Work Alone

I am a gregarious sort of person. It's my name, after all. But I work alone now. I have no need to seem like anything to anyone unless I feel like it.

I don't mind it as much as I thought I might. I had a job a decade ago and more, a real office job where I had to talk to a lot of people. It was there I became quiet. I dressed the same way, every day. It was, more or less, the same uniform I wore in parochial school. White shirt, tie, slacks, plain shoes. Under no circumstances would I ever unbutton the top button on my shirt or loosen my tie. I wouldn't even do it in the parking lot after work. The office instituted casual Fridays and I wore the same clothes. When I was an underling, everyone near yelled at me for not participating. Eventually I was their boss, and no one yelled at me.

I used to negotiate contracts with very hard-nosed people. Some of those people were way past hard-nosed and were plain criminal. They had all sorts of approaches they'd use to get what they wanted from their employees, and especially from people outside their building. When it was time to meet and negotiate anything with these hardnosed people, I'd always behave the same way with everyone. It almost always worked.

I would arrive early but sit in the parking lot until the exact appointed time. I would warmly greet everyone in the room, and mean it. Then I would sit directly across the table from the other party to the negotiation. If the table was thirty feet long with twenty empty chairs along its edge, I'd still sit at the far end from the person I was talking to. If there were thirty people, I'd figure out who was most important and sit across from them. I put both feet flat on the floor, directly under their respective knees. I would sit up entirely straight. I would fold my hands in front of me. I would look directly into the eye of the other person. I said "eye." You cannot look another person in the eyes. You end up flitting back and forth from eye to eye. I would choose one eye and stare right at it. I often place a blank foolscap pad in front of me with a pen atop it. I would never write anything on it, and would never touch the pen. I would not alter this pose for any reason. If my shirt was full of centipedes I wouldn't budge. A clock in the room might as well be Medusa. No matter what was said to me, I'd just sit there like a basilisk. I wouldn't smile, or frown, or raise an eyebrow. And no matter what was said to me, I would never say anything.

"Never say anything" is hyperbole, of course. I would answer any direct question. But nine times out of ten, you can answer anything said to you during a negotiation with "I understand." People generally don't ask meaningful questions in such cases. Hell, they don't even ask any sort of question; they just say all sorts of things they think might cut some ice one way or the other, and then they wait for you to say something back out of cowardice or manners or pity or anger. They bluster and yell or entreat and cajole -- but mostly just talk to hear themselves talk. If you say nothing, and telegraph nothing with your body language, it would get to them after a while. They'd begin to feel self-conscious. They'd get rattled. Then they'd start giving away the store. They slowly talk themselves out of all sorts of things they brought you there to beat out of you.

I had already offered whatever I was going to offer in meetings such as these. In writing, to the last jot and tittle. Meetings like these do not need to happen. It was all in writing before you were summoned. They figured they were going to use the force of their presence in some way to get what they did not deserve. I felt it was my job to wait it out. I worked for other people and I took that seriously. I have never acted this way while I was working for myself.

If someone rejects your submitted proposal out of hand, you'd be stuck. You'd have to abandon the idea or resubmit. All the work is on your end. That's nerve-wracking, and people's motives are inscrutable if all they say is "No." If someone wants to chat in person, they are already on the lot, as the car dealers say.

All humans are like a pail of water. If you dump them on the floor, they make a big splash, then they run pretty fast all over for a little while, then they coalesce into little puddles and do nothing. You have to wring them up and put them in a bucket and then start over.

That video is the Ohio Association of Realtors, I believe. They are having some sort of convocation. Team-building. Networking. They are being mopped up and wrung back into their Tony Robbins signature bucket, girding their loins for a new year of getting their commissions. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that every single one of them was a nice person. No, really; I mean it. They look pleasant enough to my eye. They are gathering together to feed on each other's enthusiasm for their chosen walk of life.

For the most part realtors are hired to defend the position of a third party. A buyer, maybe, probably the seller. Now I want you to picture anybody who would willingly attend and participate in that RealtorTubbies freakshow in the video, sitting across a table from a negotiator who acted like I did.


Tom Francis said...

Thank you for burning that horrible exhibition video into my brain for the rest of my life.

Rest assured that if I can't scrub those horrible day glow figures from my mind, the resulting insanity will be your fault.

julie said...

Yes, I'm quite certain you would win any such negotiation.

Though to their credit, I noticed that only a couple of people were clapping. Everyone else looked rather stunned.

I can't help wondering if the "entertainers" were also attendees; it's the sort of thing a prospective buyer or seller might like to know about his representative...

Sam L. said...

How much did it take to get those folks into the bodysuits? Fortunately, their faces are covered so they are next to anonymous.

You are a hard-ass, Mr. Sippi. Howz come you decided against being the capo de capo?

vanderleun said...

There shall be no forgiveness for you, Sippican. Just a minor eternity of Purgatory with teletubbies.

Anonymous said...

i work alone
YEAH with nobody else
I work at 'ome
YEAH wit nobody else
you know when i work alone
i prefers to be by myself

Every morning just before breakfast
I don't want no coffee or tea
Just me and my good ol router
dats all I ever need
'Cause I works alone, yeah
With nobody else
Yeah, you know when I works alone
I prefer to be by myself

Jes' my wife & me

Casey Klahn said...

Anon said what I was thinking.

The army had the best motivational conferences. Lots of yelling, and really a lot of explosions. A. Lot.

Paul Griffin said...

Hoo boy, I only employ the eyeball stare or 1000 yard stare if I am deathly serious. I did it to a man in my younger days just to see how he'd react if I gave him absolutely no reaction, verbal or physical, after a very minor infraction, just a calm stare. He started out full of bluster and bravado, but after a minute or two he was eyeing the door and was near tears before I smiled and assured him I was just having some fun at his expense.

I wish now that I hadn't done it, as he had done nothing to deserve such awful treatment, and I didn't understand how scary I was apparently capable of being.

I have been on the receiving end of that stare more than once now, and there is nothing quite so terrifying as a bureaucrat holding a folder that is a summation of your adult life and staring at you in such a manner as they ask you questions and quietly record your every word.

Thinking about it still gives me the willies...

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Paul!- Thanks for reading and commenting.