Saturday, December 08, 2012

The difficulty of people...

I'm constantly writing about not getting people. Today, I'm going to write three anecdotes; two about not getting people and one about finally managing to turn a potentially negative situation around using a technique I've often admired my mum for having perfected...

The first anecdote involves MIL.

If you are a long term reader, you will know we've been hoping MIL might be able to help us out with getting a car. It took the GOM three and half years to get a licence, and cost us many thousands of dollars - some of which my in-laws contributed - all because we knew FIL did not have long to live and MIL would need support and our growing family would also become more and more active as the children grew and spread their wings.

Finally the Grumpy Old Man passed his driving test in June and we thought MIL would sell FIL's old manual (which was in fantastic condition) and buy an automatic which the Grumpy Old Man could drive.

She didn't.

The more we tried to get her to see the logic of having an active driver in the family, the more she dug her heels in the ground about selling the car.

The reasons not to sell the car yet were numerous and included not wanting strangers coming to the house, not having time to wash and prep the car (something the GOM would do, anyway), the battery being dead, needing a road worthy certificate, worrying about the GOM driving, not liking the RACV guy who came out to charge the battery last time and offered her $9K for the 11 year old car...

In the end, about two and a half weeks ago, the Grumpy Old Man and MIL had a very tense conversation over the phone which left the GOM in tears of sheer frustration! They didn't speak for 10 days after that.

Finally, he calls her, expecting vitriol for not having called in so long, but there was none of that. Two days later he went to see her and noticed the car was no longer in the car port. She told him she had sold it to a man (we have no idea who, except that she identified his race and we know from that it wasn't anyone we or she knows personally), for $4K.

Yay, she sold the car, but, she sold it for less than half of what she could have sold it for and not enough to get another half-decent car, anyway. She sold while she and the GOM weren't talking. We're not sure why she suddenly changed her mind and sold it. Perhaps it was just to get rid of the bone of contention, perhaps it was spite, perhaps it was motivated by fear having realised she had greatly upset the GOM, who knows.

What I don't get about this situation was the point of months and months of aggravation to get to a point where she was finally willing to sell the car. Why was that necessary? What good did it serve?

Will she buy a car the GOM can drive now? I'm not holding my breath, to be honest, and we have decided not to even mention it now, just let the chips fall where they may.


The next anecdote involves my application to Deakin.

On Thursday I received feedback as to why my application was unsuccessful. It wasn't because of my topic or how my proposal was written - I don't think they went so far as to even read it, to be honest.

As it turns out the staff at the Higher Degree by Research application department took one look at my previous degrees and decided I had not done any substantial research previously and was therefore automatically excluded from candidature.

I received an email stating that achieving the minimum level of H2A result on my two previous Masters degrees was not sufficient to apply for a PhD at Deakin, as those degrees both appeared to be what is known as 'course work' degrees. To do a PhD at Deakin, applicants must have completed a research degree to a minimum H2A level.

They further said, it appeared the institution at which I had completed my most recent Masters was not a University accredited institution. 

Finally, they stated that my 'thesis' (their quotes) was listed as a 'major manuscript' A-H and therefore not substantial enough to be considered an actual thesis and had not been examined externally.

In other words, they believed I was a twit who did not understand how applying for a PhD works.

Of course, all these assumptions are erroneous.

Tabor is TESQA accredited. My degree was a research degree with a research thesis consisting of a 40K word artefact and a minimum 8K exegesis (essay about the work and its main themes and place in a larger body of similar works). The thesis was externally examined by Dr Jodie George, who is a full time lecturer at UniSA and Dr Julia Archer whose creative writing PhD came from Flinders University.

I have contacted practically every staff member who worked at the Humanities Department at Tabor when I was enrolled there to clarify all of this and am hoping to be able to forward Deakin an official letter stating the facts which contradict their assumptions.

The thing is, they didn't check their facts. They never spoke to my referees who would have been able to reassure them I'm not a twit. All this frustration could have been avoided with a phone call.

Just the first two frames say it all for me, really...


On Thursday - before receiving the email from Deakin - I was pretty much walking on air after having turned a potentially disappointing encounter on its head.

You see, we needed to get a painting I inherited from mum reframed. I had called on Monday to check how much it would cost to do this, and been quoted $30-35, which sounded very reasonable. So, on Thursday the Grumpy Old Man, Ari and I set off to the framers.

We were a little excited to check this place out because the owner (or manager, I'm not sure which) was the man who presented Erik with his prize at the school art show in November and he had seemed quite impressed with Erik's work. He was also the person I had received the quote from.

So, we arrived and went to the counter. The woman behind the counter seemed harried. She asked how she might help and I showed her the painting and explained what needed doing. She immediately asked who painted the painting and I explained the painter was Icelandic. She said the painting really needed to be remounted as well as reframed, but I explained the mount had the painters signature on it and so we needed to keep it in place. She said the mount was not acid free, and she could attach the section of the mount with the signature on it to the back of the painting, but I was concerned changing the mount might upset mum so said I just wanted to keep it.

She wasn't happy that I hadn't taken her advice.

She quoted the cost of the labor and it came to approximately another 40% over what I had originally been quoted, but I wasn't sure how to mention this without getting her further off side.

Then it occurred to me to ask if several of the paintings hanging on the walls were by a particular painter. Immediately, I noticed the slightest change in her demeanour as she realised I recognised the artist, she asked if I knew him. I said he was the father of my sons friend and that we lived on the same street and the boys went to school together.

Her face lightened further.

I mentioned that I had called earlier in the week and been quoted a lower price. She stiffened up again and asked who I had spoken to, I said Karl*, she pulled a face, but nodded to acknowledge that if he quoted me that amount she would charge me the amount he quoted.

I then asked if Karl had been at the school art exhibition a couple of weeks earlier, she brightened considerably at this question and said he'd been a judge there. I said he had awarded my son a prize at the art show and this impressed, I then added that it was Karl's attendance of the art show that had brought us to the shop today because as soon as we realised the painting needed reframing we thought of this place.

That seemed to make her day and after that she was very friendly and cheerful.

Basically, I used all the rather tenuous connections I had to people and events she was likely to respect to build a rapport with her. This is a skill I've watched mum do and have never been able to emulate. I find connecting with other people very challenging. I feel a lot of it contrived (at least on my part) and that causes me to feel uncomfortable, but on Thursday I found trying to connect with woman actually led to feeling more at ease and leaving the shop happy, rather than leaving the shop disappointed because the other woman was feeling stressed at a busy time of the calendar year for the business.

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to replicate this experiment, but I'm so pleased to have achieved this outcome at all!

*not his real name

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Good Job!