24 June 2006

The No Way Win In or Out

Have you ever noticed how some people phrase a request so that your only two options are accepting the request, or looking incompetent and lazy? It doesn’t seem quite that way at first, but upon momentary reflection you realize that the superficial compliment they used to get your attention was no more than the proverbial bait snaring you into a choice between frying pan and fire. When the package is considered as a whole it must be given the grudging respect due a masterful piece of malicious, deceitful and entrapping art.

Confused? Consider the following example:

Larry: “Bob, I just wanted to let you know that you are the smartest, most helpful person that I know.”

**At this point you are simply a dim-witted fish staring at a juicy worm dangling in the water right in front of your face. How did it get there? Why isn’t it sinking or rising? What is that sharp metallic object protruding from its middle? You don’t know. You don’t care. You just aren’t that nimble in the noggin. You, my soon-to be fried friend are just a dumb fish. SWIM FOR YOUR LIFE NOW OR YOU ARE DEAD! Alas, your school of fish flunked out of English and mind reading. Come to think of it you flunked out of every subject but swimming and swallowing anything that looked edible (too bad recess and lunch period weren’t graded).**

Bob: “Gee thanks Larry.”

Bob has just made a fatal mistake. A thoroughly barbed hook now protrudes from his unwary upper lip. You see, by accepting the compliment, Bob has just confirmed that he is indeed very smart and helpful – an admission that Larry will prey on momentarily. Unfortunately, had Bob been astute enough to recognize the trap and denied the compliment, he would have appeared quarrelsome, ungrateful, and even unkind. Ultimately, this would lead him to feel guilty and that he “owes one” to Larry. He will subsequently ask what he can do to make it up to him. Aha! Hook line and sinker. Dead fish stink Bob. Dead fish stink.

Indeed, Bob’s only hope for escape, however small that chance might be, would have been to feign a sudden fit of projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea, run to the bathroom to freshen up while dragging a branch to conceal his tracks and wading upstream through any rivers he happens to come across along the way, and finally entering the witness protection program and moving to Vancouver where he will spend the rest of his life as a little-known actor who is only cast in small theatrical productions where he plays a manic-depressive eunuch.

However, Bob did accept the compliment, so our tragic tale continues. Larry now has complete power over Bob, having engineered a situation in which Bob (factually or not) is admittedly smarter than poor little Larry (who of course sees himself as far too incompetent to perform such an important – and grueling – task as that which he will now pawn off on Bob). Further, Bob is also reportedly kind, meaning that he couldn’t possibly turn down his friend in his time of dire need. Larry moves in for the killing blow.

Larry: “Hey, Bob, come to think of it since you’re here I sure could use your help with something…” [Detestable, tiring, or time-consuming task is inserted here and sugar-coated with puppy-dog eyes and an innocent smile (practiced to perfection)]

Why, you might ask, can Larry get away with this con time and time again to one person after another? The answer is simple, my friend. Dead fish tell no tales.


Anonymous said...

Only too often do I find myself in these circumstances! Does that make me a fish?

momof9 said...

Oh yeah...been there, done that, but getting a little better at saying no and avoiding traps, maybe I'll get the hang of it befor I'm eighty.

Anonymous said...

Or worse, when you do say "No" and the other person doesn't let you get away with saying "No". It was really hard to say "No" in the first place and now your self-esteem has taken a nose-dive because of your unability to stick the "No".


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