Using What You Have

When I worked for the real estate consulting firm many years ago, the chairman of the board of the firm and I went to the offices of a major corporation located near Chicago, for the purpose of negotiating some real estate matters, on behalf of one of our clients. The gentleman, who was negotiating on the other side, was the director of real estate for this particular corporation. This gentleman was a quadriplegic, and used a motorized wheel chair to move about the office.

After a meeting or two with this particular person, I came to the conclusion the he was extremely bitter about his condition (maybe, rightfully so), and was set to take out his bitterness on the world. He was not a nice man, I surmised. This did not particularly bother me, since “being nice” is not a typically good negotiating stance, at least not in this circumstance. What bothered me was his mean spiritedness and his seeming hostility toward the everyone in general.

We had all the facts on our side (I learned very quickly as a young man to be very, very thoroughly prepared for negotiations like this), and pinned down this man on several key points during the negotiating session. The facts–and the logic of our argument– were winning the day, when, all of a sudden, this man slumps in his wheel chair, takes a sip of coffee through a straw from a cup on a tray on his wheel chair, and lets the coffee drool down the side of his mouth.

The message was clear: How could you do this to a person like me? Look at you. You can walk and move your arms. Now, look at me, and how pathetic I am. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?

Well, the tone in the negotiating room changed dramatically. (We weren’t the only three people in the room. Both sides had an accompanying retinue of staff). The conclusion was: his tactic worked. He probably got more than he should have, based strictly on the merits of the situation.

After we were finished with the session, and were walking down the hall, I turned to the chairman of the board of our firm and said, “Dammit! I’m furious. He shouldn’t have done that. He took unfair advantage of us.” The chairman replied, “Why are you so angry, Paul. He’s a very smart man. He knew that he couldn’t win the argument based on logic and the facts. So, he resorted to what he had. He used what he had. And, it worked.”

Then, he said to me, “Don’t we all use what we have–the talents that we have–in our lives?”

Of course we do. A penetrating insight into the obvious (except to this dumb Irish “mick”). Each of us has different talents. And, we all use them to get the job done, both at work, and in life.

The real tragedy, I have always thought, was for people who have real talent (unlike the author of this blog), and are too lazy to use it at all, particularly for the benefit of others. That, I believe, is the most grievous of sins.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *