Sunday, February 7, 2010

Charming Snake

As a consultant, I get to meet and spend time with a variety of different personalities.  As an observer, it's one of the many things I enjoy about what I do.

The other day, I called someone on behalf of a client and had the experience of meeting a very charming individual that I knew was fishing for free information.  We'll call him Bill.  Bill was very charming.  He asked all the "I'm interested in you" questions; dropped names of people we both know to make me feel connected, you know 6 degrees and all.  I watched, listened, and waited for some place that I could insert myself.  Nada....nothing...this guy was just on a roll (role).  Now the Consultant in me kept saying "time is money, what does he want? what's he looking for?" 

It was an interesting process to try and reconcile these warring factions.  On the one hand, I wanted to find out what he wanted from my client. On the other hand I had to make sure that I gave away enough to make him feel like we needed to take the next step and actually meet.  I kept wondering whether I would give too much away to my very charming snake making a face-to-face unnecessary.  Finally, he asked who I was and where did I fit into the project he was working on?  Then, he did something very surprising, he listened.  He understood.  He made sense.  Of course I knew that this was for his benefit and not necessarily for mine.  He was doing his job representing his client as I was representing mine.  We both had an objective. We both had a desired outcome.

The reason that this encounter is noteworthy for me was the methods that were employed for him to reach his goal.  There was no direct communication. He communicated via reference and intimidation.  Nothing was meant to be his own thoughts or his own position.  Instead, what I observed were put-downs, name dropping to gain validation and a feeble attempt to gain connection with me and establish some common goal.  As I hung up the phone, I wondered if I ever appeared so to anyone new I contacted.  I pride myself on being able to connect to people in a genuine way and I have employed some of the same techniques as my charmer (name dropping, past employers).  Do I also appear insincere?  Do I also leave a conversation with the person thinking "what was she up to?"  I hope not.  My charmer was an interesting mirror.  I wonder how many of my business conversation end with the person thinking 'she was a very charming snake'


  1. one might appear sincere when one is not thus deceiving the recipient, but one can not appear insincere if one is not.

    We all use charm to get an objective but your charming snake used put downs, something an honest person does not do.

  2. I think that you are self aware enough that if your had been a 'charming snake" your gut would be telling you long before you hung up the phone.

  3. Great blog, Marion. Brought to mind a saying from the Gospel: be wise as serpents, gentles as doves. You are able to hold both qualities. You protect your integrity and your integrity protects you.

  4. Thank you all. I check with people close to me to see how I present myself. It is something I learned to do living with a very critical mother. I always wonder. She would say "when you're out you're on" so I would check with my friends. Over the years, I've settled into a quiet confidence (at least I think it's quiet) but meeting this person in the same line of work as I am and having such a strong reaction to him, I just had to check.