T Nation

The Art of Business


I’m not anti-social, I just hate fake smiles, false good mornings and long conversations about shit that I truly don’t care about just to have lunch with people I would never actually hang out with casually. No less, I am finding myself in situations where this is becoming a necessity and I feel…what’s the term…like a fish out of water.

I listen to Hip-Hop music, dress in tank tops when casual and like to lift heavy objects. While movies and video games may spark a conversation with me, when faced with a 50+ year old group of professionals at a “work lunch” or even one working as part of an interview process, I get the feeling that my conversation will be less than lively.

What do some of you do in situations like this? Mentally, though I know how to act in professional settings, I still laugh at bathroom humor and would rather watch Family Guy than read the Wallstreet Journal. I doubt these guys are listening to P. Diddy and Ludacris on the way to work in the mornings and I am positive they aren’t pulling out a PSP during breaks at work.

What does a person do in order to be a success at this when they relate to an entirely different spectrum of pop culture? I hate pretend.

Asking questions

Everyone wants to talk about themselves. If you really don’t give a shit, you ask them questions and let them go on. Every once and a while pay attention and ask them to expand on an issue. They’ll think you care when you don’t.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
I’m not anti-social, I just hate fake smiles, false good mornings and long conversations about shit that I truly don’t care about just to have lunch with people I would never actually hang out with casually. No less, I am finding myself in situations where this is becoming a necessity and I feel…what’s the term…like a fish out of water.[/quote]

Without getting into fake, maybe you can find things of common interest. Current items like sports, movies or local events?

If it’s key to your long term success or job satisfaction, there is nothing wrong with working to develop schmoozing skills or learning about other peoples interests to have more in common to talk about.

As elitist as it may sound, I just assume I’m better than my co-workers because I understand both “worlds”.

I am very well spoken and professional at work which allows me to excel there. When I am done though, I crank my stereo in the car (punk not hiphop), play ps2 at home and lift heavy before bed.

I feel this gives me the best of both worlds (dynamic no fear guy and quiet professional guy) that most others just don’t get.

Not to get all philosophical here but, I take a real, genuine interest in what my co-workers tell me. I really want them to be the best they can. This allows me to not put on a phony smile or fake interest. I just don’t agree w/ their outlook on life for the most part, which is quite alright.

From your postings, and what others here say about you, you seem like a real smart guy with a pretty good take on things. Use the time w/ them to influence promotions or at least as fuel to set PR’s when under the bar. It works for me.

If you’ve never read it, you should pick up “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. It’s a quick, easy read with some valuable insights. One of the ideas presented is that you have to learn to have a genuine interest.

Is this business interactions? Business lunch, hall way/elevator chat on the way to a meeting, traveling somewhere with co-workers or bosses for seminar/training/work, etc.?

Or are they personal/business interactions like your having lunch with people you work with so you dont eat alone? Or hanging out after work to increase ties at work, hob knob to move up ladder, have a drink with the boss to get closer, or something of the like?

I have been in both situations, and how I succeeded depended on what type of situation. Being on a totally different culture level from others in the professional world around me has troubled me a great deal in my past.

I look at is as a game and I’m smarter because I’m removed enough to figure others out. I don’t know if it is true or not but it works. It becomes fun. Then you can smile inside and think what a bunch of assholes. I’m also about half way through my plan of being totally self employed which will be better for me.

[quote]wfifer wrote:
If you’ve never read it, you should pick up “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. It’s a quick, easy read with some valuable insights. One of the ideas presented is that you have to learn to have a genuine interest. [/quote]

I just read that book and loved it. It made me realize what my social strengths and weaknesses are. I also really liked all the old stories and quotes. It was written in the 1930’s I think.

That being said, I don’t think that this is what the Professor is getting at. He can “fake” it and pull off a good social outing, but it leaves a sour taste in his mouth afterward because it’s phony.

To me, the solution isn’t about asking them about questions if you really don’t care about what they have to say, it’s about finding a common ground to discuss.

As trivial as this sounds, I’ve been reading Time Magazine lately and watching CNN Headline News. It gives me something to talk about with the older folks because there’s no way in hell they’re going to want to talk about the my choice of music, movies, TV, technology, or about training for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy versus training for sarcomeric hypertrophy for that matter.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
I’m not anti-social, I just hate fake smiles, false good mornings and long conversations about shit that I truly don’t care about just to have lunch with people I would never actually hang out with casually. No less, I am finding myself in situations where this is becoming a necessity and I feel…what’s the term…like a fish out of water.

I listen to Hip-Hop music, dress in tank tops when casual and like to lift heavy objects. While movies and video games may spark a conversation with me, when faced with a 50+ year old group of professionals at a “work lunch” or even one working as part of an interview process, I get the feeling that my conversation will be less than lively.

What do some of you do in situations like this? Mentally, though I know how to act in professional settings, I still laugh at bathroom humor and would rather watch Family Guy than read the Wallstreet Journal. I doubt these guys are listening to P. Diddy and Ludacris on the way to work in the mornings and I am positive they aren’t pulling out a PSP during breaks at work.

What does a person do in order to be a success at this when they relate to an entirely different spectrum of pop culture? I hate pretend.[/quote]

X, I am on the same level with you…I hate pretend too. Although I don’t have to subject myself to those situations for work in the same regards you do, I had to with some of my ex-wife’s family.

It’s catch 22 sometimes. You can be in a conversation and you know full well if you really let your opinion out a circular argument will occur so better to just listen, try to find a topic there is some common ground on.

As bad as it sounds…some things need to be done as a means to an end. You mentioned 50+, I gather from your past posts you are in the early 30’s range, if so we are close in age. I know what it is like to try and relate with that age gap and it is not easy sometimes.

Something to think about would be do you truly let yourself be seen fully or do you selectively let parts of yourself be seen?

Good luck.

ProfX, you seem to have struck a chord with a number of people.
The suggestion to read “how to win friends and influence people” is a good one, but doesn’t necessarily address your issue, however, it’s still a great book.

I climbed the corp ladder with my abilities, but abilities are often dismissed by the hierarchy if they deem you to be “below their standing”.

I found that those in the hierarchy whose opinion I value, were those that respected me for my common sense and skills. The others who thought I didn’t fit in with their behavioural mind-set, were more often than not, the “wankers” whose respect I didn’t want anyway.

Eventually, I left the corporate world to become a private trader. Best move “up” I ever made.

At the end of the day Prof, you seem to me to be a leader of men, by your words, by your character… I’ve no doubt that if you stopped faking it, no one would say anything, in fact, you may loosen some of them up.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
What does a person do in order to be a success at this when they relate to an entirely different spectrum of pop culture? I hate pretend.[/quote]

easy… lie’n’cheat

:wink:

where is the problem… it is business not “your life” :slight_smile:

i think no one really care of what kind of culture you feel as yours… they jsut want to get the best income from your know-how…

easy… as i say… just give them what they are looking for

I think you’re just gonna have to try and find some common-ground and some way to be somewhat interested them and to relate to them. They probably don’t all fit into the mold you’ve cast so perfectly anyhow. Draw them out a little bit. Some things are universal anyhow. Family Guy is one. Plenty of middle-aged Bigwig partners at law firms love it.

You can always talk sports with men of all ages too. Some women, but it can be harder. People like talking about their families. Both genders. Many of these people are also probably well-travled. I personally love traveling and doing and seeing new things. And I like to hear about even if I don’t really like or am interested in the people. It’s something people like to talk about as well.

I think most of us with an active lifestyle feel the same way.

My pet peeve is listening to people drone on about golf. Nothing against the game. When I can no longer do athletic things I may take it up myself but I don’t want to hear about it.

The solution is to suck it up and deal with it and vent to your friends later.

[quote]mdragon wrote:
I look at is as a game and I’m smarter because I’m removed enough to figure others out. I don’t know if it is true or not but it works. It becomes fun. Then you can smile inside and think what a bunch of assholes. I’m also about half way through my plan of being totally self employed which will be better for me.[/quote]

In many situations, everyone in the room is looking around and thinking this. Kind of awkward in a way…

I really liked How to Win Friends and Influence People. Really got me to stop thinking about myself all the time, maybe similar to the original post in this thread. A lot of the social advice is good too, if you keep thinking about it and trying it out you will be thinking more about applying the lessons from the book and what the group of people in front of you are about, rather than only yourself.

I have the same problems you do. Well…I don’t listen to rap, or hip-hop…but the rest of the stuff sounds pretty much like me. When I finished my MBA, I tried working as an employee - it was a disaster. I don’t play well with others - especially when they get off on telling me what to do.

So when the opportunity presented itself to buy a practice - I jumped in flat footed. The guy I bought the practice from had a whole laundry list of do’s and don’ts on how I should act in front of the public. I tried his way for a year, and it felt like I was just a play actor.

Then I decided I would just be myself. Good, bad, or ugly - my clients were going to get me. The real me. The guy that has Korn, or Black Stone Cherry, or Godsmack blaring on his computer when they walk in. The guy that never dresses up unless somone is dead, or getting married. The guy that talks about lifting weights, and drinks a protein shake during a meeting.

I figured out that if the clients know I give a shit about them on a personal level, they could give a shit about how I act. In fact - being myself makes them feel more relaxed in my office.

The little old ladies are the best. For some reason, they love me. While they can be some of the most self-righteous, judgemental old hags you’d ever meet - they are willing to overlook most all of my ‘faults’, and treat me like their grandson. My granny’s been dead for 20 years - so it’s nice to be treated like a grandson.

Anyhow, for what it’s worth - my advice is to not change who you are to fit in. Learn to genuinely care, or at the very least learn how to pretend to care, and whatever flaws you think you might have will not be noticeable. Especially if you have the talent they are looking for.

If I were you - I would be looking really hard and long at going into business for yourself. I have been doing it for 8 years now.

Good advice rainjack.
Being yourself sets you apart from the status quo. In my business thats whats sets us apart for the rest. That being said though, what I have found X, is you need to be diversified in your interests. Learn about things that does not even interest you, because in business, to be successful, it is about the client, customer etc. Sometimes you run into subjects that blow you away that you did not think would interest you.
K>

Remember where you are and what you are doing.

You are at WORK. Getting along w/ and cultivating good working relationships w/ people is part of the deal.

So you’re not just hanging out or having lunch, you are working. I’m not saying be a phony, however, you do need to bring a work personality. One that creates a good environment for you and lets you be effective @ work.

Hear ye, hear ye. Hark to the wisdom of the ages! or at least my seventeen year as a professional schmoozer (diplomat).

Prof, first realise that the one thought that goes through everybody’s head when meeting you is: “Holy shit. Will he eat me/beat me up/rearrange the furniture tastefully up my rectum!”

There is normally no need to fake anything, but neither is it very difficult to try to put people at ease. Most casual conversations with co-workers that are not directly work-related are simply a pattern designed to establish relationships.

Remember when you was a kid? “Did you see the movie last night on the TV?” It didn’t matter whether you saw the friggin movie or not. You nodded your head with the best of them. It’s the same now.

Cut people some slack, give them enough to place you in a frame of reference, and don’t worry. If you do not have much small talk in common, that will be just fine with them, too.

TQB

One thing though, I dont know what industry you are in but, the WSJ is much better than “Family Guy”

I’d try adding the journal to your daily routine. It can really help you in business.

  1. Learn the art of listening.

  2. Learn to disassociate yourself from the task at hand. I have found I have been able to get through countless uncomfortable situations by pretending that I was watching from the sidelines and anything I had to do was actually being done by others.

  3. Learn the art of asking questions. Answer only those directly asked of you.

  4. Learn to read facial expressions. A forced smile requires different muscles to be used than a natural smile. When you know what a person really is saying, you can respond appropriately even if your answer “appears” counter to what is being said by the other party.

  5. Speak softly. People respect to soft talkers more than loud or boisterous ones. They also have to listen more intently. (However, try and tell that to some T filled teenager putting on his act in friend of a mixed group of friends.)

  6. Control your need to consume 6,000 calories at a business lunch. You can make up for it later.

  7. Don’t ignore anyone, even that 150 pound big mouth you would like to flatten.

Or, get a job cleaning kennels at the local veterinary hospital where you won’t have to interact.