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Thursday, November 7, 2013

It's Hard to Be Me, but Easy to Influence Me

So I have my annual physical on Friday, to which I will bring my nattering nabobs of hypochondria with me via a list. My younger than me, thinner than me, doctor will respond to each item with non judgemental briskness and hand me a wad of referrals or bland reassurances. These will hold me until the next bout of “oh my God my feet itch - do I have an undiscovered autoimmune disease?”

It’s hard to be me.

Anyhoo, in preparation for the physical, I had to take care of lab work. I went to a different lab than usual, one in the same building as my doctor’s office. I was dreading the wait. I was dreading the whole thing. But I went. The waiting room was small, close, and dreary. Thank goodness it was almost empty. That meant I wouldn’t have to wait long, and more importantly, I wouldn’t have to wait long surrounded by people with indeterminate illnesses pressed cheek by jowl to one another, as my stepmother would say, watching a procession of the lame and the halt, as she would also say. In the close, dingy, small room. Germs, Readers, are what I am getting at.

It’s hard to be me.

But can I just say, the receptionist was a talkative lady. She was chatting away to a woman with messy hair right ahead of me at check in. And, truth, I was preparing to get annoyed by the unnecessary chatting. After all, I hadn’t had anything to eat except a tiny bit of peanut butter that I’d wiped off my tongue when I remembered I was supposed to fast for the blood work. Also, I’m an impatient person. Anyhoo, the messy haired woman finished up her chat with the receptionist just as I was about to sigh.

“You’re really nice,” she said, with a note of wonder, and went to a chair.

I know, I really shouldn’t talk about messy hair. I haven’t brushed mine, except right before a shower, since approximately 1986.

So then it was my turn. And the receptionist, let’s call her Lulu because she knew my name but I didn’t know hers, began to “Hope” me and complimented me on my jacket and before I knew it I was showing her the nifty titanium credit card holder with the mechanical gizmo that pushes the cards up so you can see a bit of each of them but crooks with electronic credit card readers can’t. Then it was party time at LabCorps, and I was demonstrating the gizmo for other office members and there was someone else behind me in line, but she didn’t seem on the edge of breakdown. She was interested in my gizmo, too.

Eventually, I took my seat, as far away from the messy haired lady as possible and listened to Lulu explain to the next lady in line that in addition to being the receptionist she is also a phlebotomist and soon enough I was out of the waiting room and was making a fist in the giant high chair and thanking the phlebotomist who wasn’t also a receptionist for a painless needle stick and I was on my way out when I heard, “Hope!”

A receptionist calling your name is not what you want to hear when you’re on your way out of the lab. Even a receptionist like Lulu. Were they going to need to do it over? Had they forgotten a vial’s worth of precious bodily fluid? Had they already discovered the unidentified autoimmune disease I didn’t know I had?

But, no, it was the credit card gizmo. Lulu had rallied a third person behind the desk AND another lady waiting to sign in for her lab work, and they wanted to see the gizmo. And they all wanted to know where I got it, and so another few minutes elapsed before I got out of the dingy, too small, windowless waiting room.

I was about to walk through the automatic sliding front doors to the parking lot – taking a moment to note my gratitude for the hands-free experience, considering that so many sick people would otherwise be touching the knobs and pulls I would have had to touch – when the obvious truth hit me. Lulu was practicing her Dale Carnegie skills for winning friends and influencing people. 

Readers, Dale Carnegie, while long dead, lives on through a website and courses and of course through his books. My copy of How To Win Friends & Influence people in its current edition carries the subtitle, “The Original is Still the Best! The Only Book You Need to Lead You to Success.”

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People, Principle Number Two, I think. Give honest and sincere appreciation. That’s what Lulu was using. This principle derives from the idea that everyone wants to be recognized for something positive, everyone wants to feel important. Waiting to check in for lab work is one of those things that drains you of any feeling of importance. You add your name to a list. You proffer some kind of plastic card to prove you are solvent. You sit in a germy chair around other line items on a list who are solvent, and you wait. Lulu the receptionist slash phlebotomist knows this, and she also knows that buttering you up by complimenting your jacket or appreciating your credit card gizmo is going to make her life a lot easier. You are going to sit and wait in your yucky chair in a much better mood than if she barely acknowledges you. And it works. She tamed my irritability by praising my titanium card gizmo and having me demonstrate it, and thereby giving me strokes for having the cleverness to purchase this item.

A quick review of the book suggests she also used four of Mr. Dale Carnegie’s “Six Ways to Make People Like You.” These are: be interested in others; smile; use the person’s name (frankly, this can go too far and feel overfamiliar); and – this is similar to Principle 2 of handling people – make the other person feel important.  The other two, Be a Good Listener, and Talk in Terms of the Other Person's Interests didn't really apply. 

The guy was a genius, I tell you. Lulu learned her lessons well. She seemed sincere, and I was handled with deftness. Maybe I was used, just a little bit, but I didn’t mind. At least I didn’t notice it until I’d left the premises.

Or maybe I’m just paranoid.

I will add that to my list for the doctor.

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