Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Three Stages of Wheedling pt.B

Last post, I introduced the topic of wheedlers. I neglected to include Webster's take on the word:

wheedle: to endeavor to influence (a person) by smooth, flattering, or beguiling words or acts

Yup, I think that sums it up. Though my guys throw in a bit of not a perfect fit.

Earlier this week, (as some of you might know) we had one very rainy night. Rained about half an inch. Felt like a lot more, but still. The next day, I pop into the local homeless shelter for my regularly scheduled shift. My supervisor was out, but one of the other division heads was in to keep a handle on things.

I popped out back to grab a sleeping bag for someone from the shed. I gave him one. And to the other guy who saw I was giving out sleeping bags. Then went back out when a woman saw us coming in with sleeping bags. She follows me, and another guy's head pops in the entrance. "You got sleeping bags? I need one...."

So I give the woman one.

Her: I don't know, It's kind of big....(kinda peers behind me, looking for something better)

Me: (holds out a red one) It's that one of this one.

Her: I just don't like it...

Me: (looks at guy who also wanted one) If you don't want it, give it to him, but that's what I've got.

Her: I'll take it

Later on....

Her: I'm going to (nearby town). Can you store it for me?

Me: We don't store things. (Is our name "We-Store-it-so-U-don't-have-to"? No! It's a homeless shelter and resource center!)

Her: Oh. Can you save it for me?

Her: Oh. Well I guess I'll just try to get one when I come back.

I spoke with the supervisor of which 2 points emerged:

  1. Someone else was going to ask, so rather than putting it back in the shed, stash it in the back office. This prevents the "oooh, she's going to the shed. I need one TOO!!"

  2. We weren't going to give out anymore. People were getting all excited because of one rainy day and the season hadn't even started. When nasty weather did hit, we needed to have some left. Plus, my boss wasn't there, and neither of us were sure of sleeping-bag-dispersal policies she had

Another woman comes in, wants a sleeping bag:

Me: I've got one in the back room here you can have. (give it to's not new, but in great condition)

Her: It isn't new....did someone use this?

Me: I hadn't gotten a chance to put it in the back yet (technically true..)

Her: I thought there were nicer ones in the shed

Me: (really? I mean REALLY? It's free!) That's what I've got. If you don't want it....(I start to take it back)

Her: Nono! I'll take it....I guess....

So, we are now officially out.

In light of that, take it away David! (David is a tall thin man in a big straw hat)

David: I heard you were giving away sleeping bags

Me: I'm sorry sir, we don't have any more to give away today

David: What do you mean? Today?

Me: We've given quite a few away this morning, and aren't able to give any more away today. Perhaps tomorrow-

David: (comes closer...towers. I don't stand up. Why? to play the height game? I'm so short I've largely gotten over that.) What, so you just give away your quota, and then you stop? That's ridiculous!

Me: (well, yeah....) I'm not authorized to give any away at this time.

David: I'm sleeping on benches in the rain! I need a sleeping bag.

Me: I'm sorry sir. (forecast looks clear tonight though :)

David: Who runs this place!? I'm taking this straight to the city counsel! When I started this place in 1975.....(rambles on)

Me: (oh please....If half the people who say that lined up, they'd be through the door and being run over by the train every half hour) I'll look for a business card n-

David: This is an outrage. I put this together to help people! I want their business card! I'm taking this to the City Council!

Me: I can't seem to find a-

David: (getting in my personal space) Just get me that business card!

By this time, I'm getting really annoyed. He keeps interrupting me. He's just repeating himself.

Me: Sir? (he ignores me) Sir! I've told you I'm-

David: I'm not mad at you! I just want a card!

Me: I've told you I'm looking. (he starts to talk. I ignore him) I can't seem to locate one sir. Will a post-it do?

David: Yes! Just get me the number! (I hand him a post-it) This doesn't have a name! I want a name! (I put down the director's name. "Peter Jones". I figure, as director, this is part of his job) Peter Jones!! I should have known! I've done his landscaping.....


The odd thing was, after he'd gotten what he wanted, he tried to make small talk with me...maybe to leave a good impression? Too late, I already knew he was a few bottles short of a 6-pack.

Ok. Analyze time!

After this last incident, I realized that there was a pattern.

Stage One: The SquwakSquwak Stage. Person approaches, doesn't like answer. Thinks that if they can just go on about it, like a small child bleating for treats at a grocery store, Mommy will finally give in. Opponent will attempt to give various reasons why you should change your mind. Be firm!

Stage Two: The Guilt Trip Stage. This one doesn't last very long. Opponent doesn't usually have to resort to this, but they've judged that stage one is ineffectual and making them look bad. Opponent will attempt to make you feel guilty; like you aren't doing your job and that you are a bad person for this. Unfortunately for them, they secretly know you have nothing to feel guilty about, so they don't spend a lot of time here and won't throw anything truly heinous at you. Keep this in mind when combating stage two.

Stage Three: Intimidation Stage. Opponent wasn't giving his all for the guilt trip and decides to intimidate you as a last ditch effort. Phrases such as "Get me your manager" and "I'm friends with the owner" are common here. Opponent might also try to use height and/or breadth. Keep in mind that if they really were an important person, they would have brought it up first, rather than coming up with it now. Also, a lot of important people are actually nice and rarely torment people for an afternoon's pass time. For the "manager" line, you can use the following tip. This is something you need to be doing the entire process:

Use "aggressive politeness" as I call it. You can say "sir" or "ma'am" a lot, as it shows respect while allowing you more time to think of what you're going to say. Rephrase often instead of offering new information. In stage one, they really aren't listening to you anyway. They just want you to change your mind. Reasons mean nothing. With Sleeping Bag Man, it would have been a Bad Thing to offer the info that we had sleeping bags at all. To keep from slipping up, rephrase!

Most importantly, don't take too much crap.

They won't respect you. At some point, you might need to have the following exchange:

You: Sir, I've told you what I'm able to do. Why are you angry with me?

Them: I'm not angry at you!! (this will be loud) You didn't do anything!

You: Sir, there's only me here. Nobody else. So I have to assume you're angry at me. If that's not the case, please stop yelling.

Stay tuned for the upcoming post:

"If You Won't Trust Me to Do My Job, Don't Blame Me When You Screw Yourself"

1 comment:

lifeshighway said...

A brilliant post and probably my favorite. I love the analysis.