Right at the outset, I’ll do the politically correct thing and say, I’ve got nothing against kids.
In fact, I’d happily trade places with a lot of them right now: I’d get fed, watered and put to beddy-bye under a duvet dotted with cottontail bunnies with a gentle kiss; I’d be adored and cuddled when I least want it but that’s OK – it’s better than begging for it; I’d get driven around to a smorgasbord of expensive activities like soccer and baseball (remember when primary school toss-the-beanbag P.E. sessions were free?); I’d be pacified with the latest iGizmo (some tots are already killing this blog entry on their iPhone) and told to “go fly your Millenium Falcon XIII”. I could smear gooseberry jelly all over my face and be ‘cute’ rather than committed. Oh, to be a kid again!
But if you want my business, or even my friendship, then as one of the handful of people in your social circle who don’t have kids, please spare me the harping on about your kids, and see what turns up.
Someone wanted to do lunch, ostensibly seeking my business. It required a bit of phone and email tag. Every single communication involved a logistic around his stepdaughter Mish. I wasn’t particularly interested in a blow-by-noseblow account of taxicabbing and childminding and playgrouping, I just needed to know when he wanted to meet.
Thinking back, every other conversation with this person over the years has been similar. We’d become friends of sorts, but I still know little about him because we never get beyond Mish. It left me wondering why I have this family man in my life at all. An acquaintance certainly, but we can find those in a phonebook or the checkout line at SafeWay.
How does his harping on about his kid potentially leave me feeling, even for a fleeting moment?
Left out. Inadequate. One of those poor sods hovering on the fringes of the seething furry mass in “March of the Penguins”, eggless and dateless, while thousands of happy pair-nguins protectively flap over their precious orb. But only for a moment. I’m human, I react, I get over things, I move on. But if you knew your words had that effect on me, AND you were trying to engage me to do business, would you be so inconsiderate?
It makes me feel we’re simply not pedaling our trikes in the same cul-de-sac.
Now extend this notion – smalltalk is fine, it brings people closer, but choose your subject matter with care. Aim for relevance and relationship. A former business partner would talk ceaselessly about his wife’s health as a reason why he could not honor a contractual obligation to me. As much as I empathized, and lost money to him to prove it, there was nothing in the contract about her health. I’d have preferred it if he’d simply said, ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t deliver.’
I am not saying that you cannot talk about things that are important to you. In fact, by doing so, you can bring people closer. But be mindful – it takes two to make a conversation. You can have all the creds in the world to do a particular job, but you might be sabotaging yourself from real success just by what you’re putting out. Bit like having awful BO but being a brilliant hairdresser – you might find yourself relegated to clipping poodles.
So, if you want to do business with childless wonders, spare them your kiddie talk, and I promise I’ll spare you the tedium of talking about eating guinea pig in Peru or slumming it in 4-star converted fortresses while biking across Italy.
Besides, if you harp on about your kids, I might just decide I gotta have one.
Oh no, I forgot to have children!