Paying $1200 For A Compliment

I was on a live television show when I learned that I have a bald spot.

The show wasn’t about me or my hair. I was on a panel, being interviewed about a serious topic. I remember looking at the monitor at one point and thinking “that shot from behind the panel isn’t helping that guy in the blue jacket.” Then I looked down at my sleeve and remembered I had on a blue jacket.

After the show, I asked several friends why they didn’t tell me I was getting a bald spot on the back of my head. They were all surprised that I didn’t know and wondered how I missed something so obvious.

I learn a lot from unexpected sources, but not everything.

I’m Like A Kindergarten Teacher, But Not

Some of them will always talk like they’re in class. (public domain)

For twenty-four years of my career, my specialty was crisis negotiation.

As you might guess, a critical part of talking to hostage takers and suicidal people is using a very calm voice, no matter what is happening around you. I got good at sounding calm. I can’t say that I was always placid inside, but you’d have been hard pressed to hear it in my voice when I was working.

And the people I negotiated with often said things like “you’re nice to talk to”, “you’re kind of soothing” or, the best compliment I ever got –  “if I didn’t want to kill you, I’d want to have a beer with you.” I became very confident about how my voice fit the job I loved.

Most of us have fond memories of our kindergarten teachers. But unless you’ve known a kindergarten teacher socially, you probably don’t know that many of them can’t stop talking like they’re in their classrooms.

I’m not saying that the way kindergarten teachers talk is a bad thing; it actually sounds pleasant outside the classroom. It is such a part of the way they do things that they aren’t even conscious of doing it away from school. I’m a bit like a kindergarten teacher in that way. I don’t purposely speak like I’m doing a hostage negotiation, but I suppose I do it anyhow.

Thanks Dude

Not my house or my painter. (public domain, arpingstone)

When I dialed the painter’s number, the only thing I planned to learn from him was how much a house painting job was going to cost. I got his voice mail and left a routine message – “Hi, this is Omawarisan. I saw you listed on the Better Business Bureau site and wanted to have you swing by and give me a price on some work.” I gave my phone number and address and said “I’d appreciate it if you’d call me back.”

The painter called back a few minutes later. He wasn’t at all close to my home at that moment, but we set an appointment for him to come over and give me an estimate on the job.

We spoke for a few minutes as he looked over what needed painting. He described his workmanship and a few extra steps he’d take to ensure a job well done. Then he sat down and calculated how much he wanted me to pay him for his efforts.

Before he gave me his written estimate, the painter said “I don’t usually work in this town” and then reinforced his point by listing five towns where he did usually work. “I don’t even bother doing estimates if I get a call from here. But there was something about your voice on the phone that made me want to drive over here.”

And then he gave me his price.

My reaction to the figure he presented was “whoa, that’s a lot of money”, but I didn’t say that. It was the only time in our conversation that I had to think about keeping calm. We spoke a few minutes more, then as he was leaving he said “really, there’s something about the way you talk. I think we can do business.”

No Soup For You

I’m fairly certain we can’t do business.

While it is true that I learned I was starting to lose my hair on live television, the painter didn’t bring me to some revelation on the way I speak. Like the kindergarten teacher, I’ll probably always sound a little like my profession. Like professional me, I’ll probably always have a pretty clear sense of when someone is feeding me a load of crap.

I learn a lot about myself from unexpected sources, but I didn’t need a painter to teach me that $1200 is a lot to pay for a load of crap, or a compliment.


15 Comments on “Paying $1200 For A Compliment”

  1. “If I didn’t want to kill you, I’d want to have a beer with you.”
    I get that a lot. And, for the record, it’s a pretty lame pickup line.

  2. larva225 says:

    Can you give lessons on sounding soothing?

  3. Eva says:

    Your voice was a life-saver. That’s powerful. I have nothing witty to type.

    • omawarisan says:

      Thank you. Your $1200 is in the mail.

      It kinda is a powerful thing to have been a part of. I was fortunate to serve with a top notch team for a long time. For what it is worth, it is also one of the best job titles to have if you’re at a cocktail party.

  4. My husband’s parents are both clinical therapists. Sometimes it comes out in their voices, for sure, or even their words… I sometimes catch them saying things like “how does that make you feel” or “do you think that means…”, at which point I protest “Don’t psycho-ologize me!” I made that word up, purely because I used to say “Don’t psycho-analyse me” and then would get lectured about how they don’t do psychoanalysis because they’re not Freudian or something (@_@)

    I’ve been teaching English in Japan for the last four years, and I’m a little worried I’m going to go back to Canada and talk to everyone like they’re ESL students. Short words, no contractions, everything over-enunciated, simple sentences, I probably don’t even sound like a native English speaker myself anymore (>_<)

  5. Laura says:

    “if I didn’t want to kill you, I’d want to have a beer with you.”

    I’d probably point out that they could do both, as long as they did them in the right order. I’m not a very good negotiator.

  6. Pie says:

    “if I didn’t want to kill you, I’d want to have a beer with you.” That quote alone makes you today’s winner of the internet.

    Painter man should’ve paid you $1200 for your voice. It would’ve been a small price to pay for something that is ultimately priceless.

  7. Blogdramedy says:

    Reading this post almost put me to sleep. Your voice is that soothing.

  8. I really enjoyed the way you wrote this. It completely entertaining how you really had no idea where you were taking this post. I get comments a lot on my voice as well, but it’s moreso for always sounds so pleasant and cheerful.

  9. So I guess that means you give good phone. A lot of people give good phone and then when they meet you in person everything changes. Apparently, he still liked your phone.

  10. ableottos says:

    Believe it or not you are not alone. Think about it, how hard is it to see the top of your head?
    You need mirrors and angles. No one is going mention anything except one of your buddies drunk. You think he is just busting your balls. Then you have to go on TV to discover what is difficult for any of us to see. Hey, if they made me sing and I had to see me on TV do it, I would be in your shoes too. Maybe it can give you an idea why some actors do not see their films. Just don’t start wearing a hat. That would be silly. Peace~

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