Sucking Down

Guy Kawasaki just blogged about “Sucking Down.” My friends and I have always referred to it as the “high friends in low places” theory. The most productive relationships you can have are often with the people at the bottom of the totem pole.

There are two things that I do along these lines that usually get me whatever it is I need. First, making the other person smile is killer. Even if you can’t make them smile, taking 10 seconds at the beginning of a conversation to ensure that they don’t think you’re another bozo is key. I often do it with self-deprecation. Apparently no real bozos ever admit to being a bozo, so I just claim that I suck:

“I am a complete idiot and I just walked right through customs without collecting and rechecking my luggage. Is there any advice you can give me at this point? I guess you can tell that I’ve never been out of North America before.” (this one got a laugh from the lady at the desk and her instantly just filing a “lost luggage” report for me, since neither of us could go get my bag).

Or what worked for me the other day:

“Morning! After those last two guys I feel like I should start an argument with you and hold you responsible for something I did, but instead I think I just want to pay my parking ticket, if you’re okay with that.” (the best service I’ve ever had because she looked up any other tickets I had outstanding and then also called the DMV to make sure that my license wasn’t suspended from the old one she found… wow.)

The second thing I do is introduce myself properly to someone if I am planning on interacting with them for more than ten minutes in my life. I started doing this after I read Roger Dawson’s Secrets of Power Persuasion, and it works pretty darn well (check out chapters 19, 20, and 23).

I did this when my Jeep died in Minnesota, near my mother’s house, over Thanksgiving. It was a bad situation. The only place that even considered helping me out was the local Jeep dealer, and they were swamped because of the holiday. They tried fixing my Jeep three times over four days, just to have me drive off and need a tow truck again less than five minutes later each time. By the time all the obvious troubleshooting was done their star Jeep tech was on his way for training in Michigan, and the other techs were stymied. And I was stuck in Minnesota, 250 miles from where I needed to be.

Through all this I introduced myself to absolutely everybody who I dealt with, from the tow truck guys to Matt, the shop manager. Matt was the guy that wedged me into the schedule originally, and when I first met him I introduced myself, shook his hand, and thanked him for doing that (and offered him a bag of M&Ms — I had two due to a vending machine error). Of course, he didn’t expect that we’d have an ongoing relationship, but because I empathized with their needs (training and such) and he felt like he knew me he was willing to be honest with me about my situation. He wanted to wait until his star technician returned in a week from training and then have him look at it, rather than pretending they knew how to fix it and wasting time. He knew I needed to go home, and though he’d told me earlier that they didn’t do loaner cars enough people around the shop knew my situation and liked me that he’d been able to bend the rules and get me a car. And as long as I came back for my Jeep sometime in the next month his bosses were okay with the deal. Sweet!

Yup, Guy’s got it right. Empathize. Accept what you can’t change, or rather, what they can’t change. Be the nice guy. And introduce yourself.

1 thought on “Sucking Down”

  1. Sounds very similar to the ideas I propogate. I always use names (look it up on the bill or tag), communicate like them and smile. I’ve got a few posts you might like to read. Check them out if you can. Thanks and g’luck! – Harsha

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