May 24, 2018

That Really Bunches My Panties…by Brendon Marks

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One of my former co-workers, Exudahagen (not his real name), X for short, can jump into any conversation and keep talking until every possible discussion point for that particular subject has been eliminated.

He moves from one subject to another without leaving a gap, without even taking a breath. It’s impossible to hold a conversation with him–you can only listen. If you do decide to say something, you must watch closely for the signs that he is nearing a transition point. Usually he starts to talk a little slower. His brain is now furiously multi-tasking. Part is controlling his tongue, processing the information about the current subject, another part is searching the archives for more information, while the last part is doing a high-speed scan for the next topic he wants to talk about.

As long as that slow-down continues you have a chance, but you have to be ready. Timing is everything. If he starts to speed up again, it’s already too late; you’ve missed your chance. He has already retrieved everything he wants to say about the current topic and has locked in on a new one. His brain now only has one series of sequential tasks to complete: A high-speed dump of the remaining data, slip in a transition statement, and launch the new subject.

Your only opportunity is to distract him. While he’s in slowdown mode, you have to do something that requires part of his brain to stop what it’s doing and acknowledge the disruption. Of course, it’s best if you derail all three parts, but that usually requires some drastic action like suddenly diving under your desk as if someone had hurled a hand grenade into your office, faking a heart attack, or removing your pants.

Minor distractions don’t work at all while he’s in high-speed mode. X simply keeps talking while another part of his brain evaluates the distraction. As I said before, timing is everything. You must act when he is forced to divert cranial resources from a current task, essentially putting that task on hold.

Another indication that he is vulnerable is when he starts to repeat points on the current topic, meaning that he has not yet found a new topic. The scan part of his brain is furiously searching for something to focus on. Give him something. At this point, it doesn’t have to be drastic. Something as simple as a gentle tug on his tie or earlobe will generate that window of opportunity.

Of course, there are many tactics you can use that are much more covert, but require assistance from another co-worker. External distractions fall into two categories. Category one removes X from your presence and you forfeit your opportunity to say anything further on the subject. Category two creates that opening for you to say what you want to say.

Category ones are things like a fire in the stairwell, or a co-worker calls, you look at your watch and say, “That’s my conference call, sorry.” Whereas category twos are things like having a co-worker call X on his cell phone and hang up on the second ring. When he looks at the phone with that puzzled expression—pounce, and don’t even stop for a breath until you’ve said all you want to.

You can also use the “Drag and Drop” routine which was invented long before the computer mouse. It works like this: While X is talking you slowly move out of your office, dragging X with you into a co-worker’s office. As soon as the co-worker engages, you quickly slip out. Credit goes to my brother, Roy, who taught me this technique.

One thing you have to keep in mind if co-workers are involved is that quite often, X’s attention is then turned to the co-worker. A lot of folks are reluctant to assume that responsibility, so you have to be prepared to reciprocate at a later date.

But hey, teamwork is important in the workplace, right?

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