A friend named Cathy said that to me before I walked into a meeting where I was going to be guy mildly shocked when the people in the meeting didn’t have my best interests in mind.
I’ve been doing my best not to be as naive since then.
Now ironically I come from the trades industry where strong personalities and customers were constantly playing the game to get more from our company than we’d signed up for. It became a normal thing to walk into a loaded meeting with a smile and carefully prepared first line ready in the chamber for when someone would drop a ridiculous expectation they knew they shouldn’t be asking for.
Most people we dealt with were fairly decent, but there were bullies and psychos too that used overt will power to make their companies good money and weren’t opposed to using whatever tactics that worked to do it.
This was all normal and I became skilled at mixing a hard no with humour and a “Nice try but…”.
“Look I can appreciate that you’d love for us to ____, but we both know we can’t”. You can get away with almost anything if you say it beaming from ear to ear in appreciation of the game.
It was very clear which team everyone was on in that world and when I dipped into different cultures in different careers I had to learn quickly that not everyone on the same team is on the same team.
I walked into the new meeting with the best interests of the other party in mind and found that that was the only thing we shared in common, because they also had their own best interests in mind.
Now I hate drama. Like I hate it hate it. If you have something to say then say it, but then the other party gets to respond and whoever get’s caught cheating to loses automatically.
It’s a little sad that a very optimistic person like myself has to be reminded that Everybody Wants Something but there is a glass half full to this as well:
I have a future with them if someone wants something FOR me and not only FROM me.
I recently did an interview the lovely Tim Lowing (The Lowdown) which was suggested and set up by Anthony from Venue. (I just called Tim lovely because I doubt anyone has ever done that before and I want something FOR him. Or perhaps he gets called lovely everyday and I will owe him an apology:)
I had only briefly met Tim before, who was fascinated by our Airdrie Easter egg hunt (100,000 eggs!!), and found out he had been wanting to interview me so I asked Anthony a couple of questions along these lines:
“What do you think he wants? What kinds of questions will he ask?”
If there’s one thing I hate it’s bad surprises. I never know if someone is going to spring some weird question on a public platform to forward their agenda like “Tell me how much you disagree with Council’s latest approval of spending?!!”
This is always awkward and I try to avoid getting crucified whenever possible.
Now if you know Tim like I do now you’ll know that I was needlessly worried, but a little caution goes a long ways.
I’m an odd blend of risk taking with a cautious streak, but it has served me well. And a few well placed questions beforehand can direct the conversation into something very profitable, and it did.
We concluded a normal interview time at Sorso with him furiously taking notes that he couldn’t possibly interpret later (I can always deny whatever he says I said by claiming Chicken Scratch), while he asked me about the details of Airdrie Easter which I’m glad Anthony was there to actually answer correctly.
Anthony had to run but I’d had a difficult week and wanted to hang out more because I was enjoying myself, and it’s good to do things one enjoys in between things one simply does because no one else can or wants to. So Tim and I stayed. We shot the breeze about everything from religion to politics to the human condition and solved most of the world’s problems in the next couple of hours.
It’s good to take time to hear someone else’s thoughts and experiences. The older I get the less certain of myself I seem to be and the more certain of my message. But it’s nice when someone is having a parallel experience in a different life because there are surprising similarities and the advantage of different perspectives.
I found that he wanted something FOR me, which is what I wanted for him too. It’s easy to place demands on that kind of friendship.
Hopefully in his chicken scratch we’ll remember how we solved the world’s problems and make a million bucks on book sales.
But it was a great evening all the same…