How I made a stranger cry on our first coffee meet

How I made a stranger cry on our first coffee meet

She – a stranger messaged me on twitter, I am interested in the writer’s job. Can we meet? Most of my writers have never even met me, so I thought to myself, why should I waste the lady’s time. So I asked her, how about getting on a call first? But also gave a link to my calendar where she had a choice to book a call or a meeting for the coffee shop opposite my house. She decided to go and book an in-person coffee meeting. I thought she would choose the call, I mean why would anyone waste their time. Now I was worried about my time, I checked her bio and saw that she had a blog, she was writing about Bollywood and TV which never interest me so I didn’t check for the quality. Also, I had interacted with her on Twitter a couple of times and thought of her as a pleasant and intelligent person. I decided it might be a good meeting. I reached and she was already sitting there. She asked me what I would like to have, I said, I won’t have anything, just water (which never arrived).

We connected immediately.

It was a flying start, she talked about the loss of culture in Mumbai because of UP migrants. I agreed that the city was getting overcrowded. But what she did next made me put my trust in her more.

What do you do?

She said, she has never really worked, but now has all the free time, wherein i replied, that I had just no free time. (this was a hint, she should have taken). She asked for my advice on what she could do with her career. She said she was interested in healing, Bollywood and events. I gave her an idea, which she wasn't particularly interested in listening. This is when I realised, that the lady had an agenda. (coming back here later)

I became vulnerable

Meanwhile, She looked at my eyes and said they are unhappy and whether I am bothered with paying bills. I was very impressed, and that she had guessed right. I opened up further to her, I told her about my personal life in detail, she was curious and I gave her all the answers about my life. It is probably unprofessional of me of opening my vulnerable side to a complete stranger, but I always want to give some context to a person to know me well. [But people take advantage of this, instead of showing compassion. I have to learn not to talk about my personal life. ]

We came back to her career

She said I should let her at least try writing for my publication, I said sure, i would like to give her the opportunity if she wants to give it a go. We then again went back to talking about her career, every time I recommended her something, she told me “ You do it”. I again emphasized that I don’t have time. This is my way of anchoring people who want freebies. (If you understand negotiation techniques). But I was losing my patience. Instead of asking me whether I would like to do it, she told me I should do it. I calmly explained to her, I have a database of 2000 businesses and about 500 of them are my past clients. I cannot get involved as in the nitty-gritty of their business, but I am their local media channel. After all this explaining, I realised, I was trapped in a meeting with a housewife who has not much experience of business talks. ( I wanted the meeting to end ASAP) She asked me again if I would like a coffee, now I realised that if she treats me for a coffee, it would be to oblige me. I said, I need only water and I will get it. She then suggested that she should do the counselling as she thinks she is good at it, I agreed, she had at least spotted my issue. She then said that I should give her some free publicity initially as she was new. I said it would depend on what content she creates and if it is relevant for our media.

I decided to give her some gyaan.

I now knew that I was with a person with no professional experience, but up till this time, she had looked up to me and that made me feel I was entitled to give her a piece of hard advice.

Never Ask for Freebies

I told her in a very soft (but irritated) voice, that please keep in mind that you never ask for freebies as I feel you are devaluing my brand. I explained that I know that you have no professional experience and if it was a professional sitting across me, I would have walked off. I guess it took her a couple of minutes to understand what had been unleashed upon her. I could see her eyes turn RED and tearful, she said, I had hurt her and had spoken vitriolic words and that I should have just left if I didn’t want to work with her. I told her, I never said I don’t want to work with you. She was not listening to me now. She was tearful.Her reaction stunned me, I said, I can apologise if it helps and I do. My intention was to give you business advice. I said I have to leave, she mumbled if I wanted coffee. I said no and offered her a handshake, she just touched my fingers like I was a toxic waste.

Why did this happen?

She has made a mental model of me, as she was following me on twitter of years. My online persona is of a carefree, reckless person. My real-life persona is of “ I don’t have time and let's get to the point” I have seen many people trying to be pally with me, only to be shooed away. I am 47, and I know I have 10/15 years of work left. People guess my age as 30 from my online persona and when they meet me in person, they think I am 36. Based on this perception the lady had planned her agenda when she saw that she had not only failed in carrying out her agenda (of getting a free business and marketing partner) and was actually called out for doing so. She decided to turn the tables before I could call her an ill-mannered woman she called me out as vitriolic.

Some people are bad losers.

I wished the lady has read the cues.

Cue No 1

I told her I am extremely busy several times. If it is a compassionate person, she would have offered to pay ( as she kept saying she has no need to earn money right away). But she still was stuck with freebies.

Cue No 2

She herself told me my eyes tell her that I am worried about paying my bills every month. How could she then even think I would do anything for free.

My Mistakes

1. I should stop telling people about my personal life. I should come to business talk asap! 2. I should do better research on the person I am going to meet. Business talk is tough, people don’t want to hear it. I valuable advice to a person who was not ready to receive it. I need to qualify the person before I try to save the womankind with my free advice.

The Takeaway

I recently read Malcolm Gladwell book " Talking to Strangers". In his book, he explains, how human beings are built to trust other people by default. But we often completely misread other people. He tells some people to give false signals, for example – A person can be telling a truth but his facial expressions are of telling a lie. In fact, the CIA got fooled by Cuban spy for 25 years, who they hired and who eventually were part of a Cuban counter-espionage operation.

Scared of strangers

In the digital age, we have lost the art of reading strangers, I am a victim, I think the millennials are even worse, that's the reason they hide behind messages. We need to understand this art better.

Final Statement

I wish I had read her persona and I could have been more tactful. Who knows, this blog post would have been about a new friend made.

Better luck next time for me! 🙂

Photographer: Aliyah Jamous | Source: Unsplash