By Barry Maher
As we discussed last month, sometimes we allow ourselves to be intimidated by others, perhaps those who just happen to be more powerful or richer or better looking or more intelligent than we are.
Then there are the Marvin Winchells of the world, those who try to intimidate deliberately.
“Marvin has to let you know that he’s really too important to be dealing with the likes of you,” one of Marvin’s vendors complained. “He’s always late for meetings. He’ll keep you cooling your heals while he chats on the phone about his golf game. He’s got that huge office. Giant desk. His chair is a leather throne. The two cloth chairs for visitors are smaller and shorter. The topper is, he’s actually whittled down their
legs. And the front legs are shorter than the back. So you can’t get comfortable, and if try to balance anything in your lap, it slides down to the floor.”
“An old trick,” I offered. “I think psychiatrists used to use it.”
“Sure. I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never known anyone else who actually went to the trouble to do it. Then he has to act distracted and disinterested in anything you have to say. And shake his head while you’re talking as if he’s much too smart to believe a word of it. And of course, nothing you do is ever right. Or ever likely to be.”
“And at the slightest excuse,” I offered, “the screaming starts. And the demands.”
He chuckled, “You know Marvin.”
“I was in sales. Every sales rep knows a Marvin.”
He nodded. “Saying Marvin is high maintenance is like saying colon cancer is annoying. With all aggravation and all the hand-holding required, I was spending more in antacid than we were making on the account. Then one day I get a call.”
“Don’t be silly. Marvin’s much too big a deal to call me directly. I get a call from Marvin’s secretary. She says, ‘Please hold for Mr. Winchell.‘” This is typical Marvin. Then he’d leave you hanging there for 20 minutes. Only I’d had enough. So I say, ‘The only thing I’ll hold for Mr. Winchell is his trophy wife. And I can’t do that right now cause I’m busy canceling his last order—his very last order.'”
Why should anyone feel intimidated by someone like Marvin, someone with such massive insecurities that they feel they need to go to such lengths to gain an edge? This is a person you should be feeling sorry for. What could be more pathetic than the image of this guy down on his knees in his best, overpriced, dressed-for-success suit, shaving down those chair legs?
My advice? Never be intimidated by someone who thinks his best shot is winning through intimidation.
They’re usually just telling you that they’re in competition with the world and that—without the intimidation—they don’t believe they can win. And they’re usually right. They try to blow themselves up like a giant balloon, hoping for larger than life. And when it doesn’t work, when the balloon pops . . . Well, you’ll never see a greater change of scale—a greater loss of stature—in any human being.
Any good negotiator would love to run across a Marvin Winchell. An unethical one could take him for everything, including the defective office furniture.