June 09, 2009
Here's a thought for ya.
In a few days I am meeting someone for this consulting project. When I set up the meeting with the other party's associate, she asked me to show up at the site -- which is a few miles outside of Florence and not entirely easy to get to without a car.
This morning I dutifully plotted my trip, researched local bus routes and found out that I could catch a bus from the Florence train station, where I arrive. That bus ride takes a little more than an hour, since it stops in about 400 places before finally getting there. (I was also considering a cab, which would be a lot faster, but it could be pricey and I don't want to risk it. Also, I'm not sure I'd have a way of getting back.)
To catch the bus in time for the meeting, that means I must leave extra early from Milano or take a more expensive (faster) train, and I won't have time to deposit my bags at the hotel. No matter. The meeting is my priority.
And then, a revelation. Why let things be HARD when they could be EASY?
I called the other party directly and inquired if he will also be departing from Florence, and if so, could we meet up at the office and go to the site together? After all, if someone is already driving, and the ride takes 10 minutes, couldn't we save 50 minutes of my time at no cost to him?
As I asked the question, my tone was sweet and apologetic -- since I figured I might be imposing, and I was asking for a favor of sorts.
He instantly agreed. In fact, he seemed eager to accommodate me.
Which left me with two afterthoughts:
1) It was, after all my fretting, so easy to ask! In the past, years ago and even recently perhaps, I would have just taken that bus, simply because I was told to do so. I would have felt it was my duty to not inconvenience anyone. Assumed that if the associate requested I show up on the site, it was for a good reason. Tried to appear self-sufficient and "professional." Silly child.
2) More intriguingly, his tone made me think that I'd been misreading the situation. He was extremely polite and sounded, in fact, a teeny bit deferential. He called me "Signora." I'd hadn't seen it that way before: that to him, I am a signora, a lady, making the time to come from Milano to meet with him, and making the effort to provide a service. We are two professionals meeting to discuss something.
I simply figured that I'm some upstart, me, moi, little La Roxy. That he was doing me the favor and that, consequently, I needed to bend over backward, be courteous and unintrusive.
How often we assume characters, personae, faces and mannerisms for the world. And how often should we examine these and readjust?
To me, naturally, I'm the grad student, the part-timer. I automatically assume other people are more busy or more important that I am. And -- very true -- when I'm a grad student I have a flexible schedule and I'm low on the totem pole.
But when I'm on the clock, when I brush shoulders with other professionals, I'm a consultant arrived from America. I'm a busy woman! Until they meet me, I could be 60! 38! I could be someone's boss! I could be a mom or have grey hair. And even after they meet me, I could still be a wheeler and dealer, a diva. Or a has been, or a wannabe. Or a talented, successful and ambitious pro.
All depends on what I think, and (more importantly?) how I train them to think.
I just need to remember that: I will only be treated as well as I ask to be treated. Act like a grad student, schlepping around, accepting to waste time on a bus -- and people expect the same from me. Act like a star and get the royal treatment.
Hmmm, which do I want to be?
Who do you want to be?
Gained: Saved an hour, probably made myself more respected in his eyes, and remembered that I'm only worth the price (or time, or attention) I claim.