Building Your Assertiveness: Having Fun With Cold-Callers

It seems that nowadays we can’t walk down the street without someone with a clipboard wanting ‘just a minute’ of our time. My approach is quite simple. I just state ‘Sorry I don’t conduct any business in the street’. I extend this to people knocking on my door (‘Sorry I don’t do business on the doorstep’). However, for telephone cold-callers I adopt a slightly different strategy. In my coaching practice I encourage clients to seek out opportunities to develop life skills such as assertiveness and self-confidence. Rather than an annoyance, cold-callers offer such an opportunity.

Despite registering with the telephone preference service I still get unwanted calls. Surveys and market research is not covered (honoured) by this opt out. Of course, it should, morally speaking. Any reputable company would make the assumption that if people have taken the time to register with the service then it’s likely they don’t want to be bothered wasting time on surveys. One of my first approaches was to discuss my fees with them. This doesn’t work. Unless of course you follow up with a letter in writing to let the company know that you will charge an administration fee for future calls. You are then within your rights to send them an invoice and if its not paid, you can proceed through the small claims court. However, I digress.

Recently, I tried out a new approach which proved to be great fun. I’d decided the next time I was cold-called I was going to take the opportunity to sell my own services of coaching, training, broadcasting, writing and research. So I prepared a brief spiel and waited for the inevitable call.

The call came and was from someone purporting to be from the National Accident Helpline (NAH). In the past I have reported such calls and found that it’s common for dodgy companies to impersonate the NAH. The real NAH does abide by the telephone preference service. So I began:

Me: ‘Thank you very much for your call. It is coaching, training or research that you are interested in?’

Cold-caller: ‘Sorry?’

Me: ‘How exactly can I help you?’

Cold-caller: ‘I’m calling from the National Accident Helpline’ (lie)

Me: ‘Splendid. So is it coaching within your organization, training, researcher or perhaps you’d like me to front a media campaign’.

Cold-caller: ‘Sorry. Who are you calling from?’

Me: ‘Actually you called me and I’m trying to establish which of my services are of interest to you’.

Cold-caller: ‘Sorry. What company are you from again?’

Me: ‘Well you called me. So which of my services interest you?’

No doubt we could have continued along these lines for longer but I’d run run out of script. Next time I will run through a description of each of my services.

The value of this type of opportunity is that you have a captive audience. It’s up to you to take control of the situation and have fun with it. If you don’t have a service to promote then perhaps you could pretend to have a sofa for sale and describe it in great detail. Ask the caller what they look for in a sofa. If they are not interested then try to sell them something else. The value of this is that you get to role play for free and will probably have a good laugh too.

Speaking in public is one of the most feared challenges, so cold-callers offer a great opportunity to practice those skills too. Assertiveness and confidence are built in small steps and start with a state of relaxation. Find other opportunities in life to develop people skills, such as small-talk at the supermarket or at the bus-stop. Losing your temper or being rude is not assertiveness, it’s aggression. Just have fun with it.

I’m now looking forward to the next opportunity to practice my sales pitch and who knows I may try to sell my old chaise longue.



An “Alpha Male’s” Right to Reply

Sometimes a comment on a post cannot be allowed to nestle in the nether regions of a blog but deserves due prominence. So, when a certain Mr John Doe, fronted up and called me a wimp, I knew I had to be man enough to let his voice be heard. . . or at least be read! So, Mr John Doe, self-proclaimed alpha male. . . this is for you fella!

Who's yer daddy?

Who’s yer daddy?

The post that so offended Mr Doe, was The Great ‘Typical Alpha Male’ Delusion in which I criticized lazy journalists spouting the usual meaningless  psychobabble. The journalist described President Obama, during his visit to Britain, as ‘the typical alpha male, laid back and relaxed’.  I pointed out that if we look to the animal kingdom, where we have ‘borrowed’ the term ‘alpha male’, we find that they are anything but laid-back and relaxed! Now admittedly I went on to denigrate anyone who describes himself as an alpha male, as ‘a thoroughly unpleasant bloke who doesn’t have enough friends to tell him that his people skills stink’. I also added that they are usually ‘dickheads or bullies or both’. Now okay, I may have gone a bit far, but is that any reason to call me a wimp? It really hurt my feelings!

It distresses me to print the full assault but I’m powerless to resist the sheer force of this self-proclaimed alpha male’s argument. Here goes and while you read it, I’ll be lying down in a darkened room with a wet flannel over my eyes:

John Doe replies:

As an alpha male who leads people and shags beautiful women, let me assure you we are quite relaxed (and confident)…your take on obama demonstrates an incredible lack of understanding which must result in extraordinary jealousy of people like myself
Good day…wimp!

I know it’s shocking, so please feel free to report it for mature content but  let’s do a little,  point-by-point analysis anyway:

  1. Would an alpha male (by Mr Doe’s definition) have bothered to post a comment?
  2. Would an alpha make have bothered to set up a ‘john doe’ email address and post under the name ‘John Doe’, unless of course that is his real name? Surely, John Buck or John Stag would be more appropriate?
  3. Would an alpha male be scouring blogs for references to alpha males?
  4. ‘Leading people’ is not necessarily a positive thing. It’s how you lead them and where you lead them that counts.  The Pied Piper led people too, or was that rats, I forget?
  5. Does ‘shagging beautiful women’ prove alpha male status? Well alpha males in the animal kingdom aren’t too fussy. They will even mount other males. So if you are a true alpha male, is there something you want to tell us, Mr Doe?
  6. The phrase ‘shagging beautiful women’ surely is exactly the kind of chauvinism that proves the point that men who call themselves self-proclaimed alpha males aren’t the nicest of chaps, as I pointed out in my previous post.
  7. So by stating ‘we are relaxed’,  Mr Doe has either decided to speak for all of the other self-proclaimed alpha males on the planet, which seems a tad forward of him, surely they can speak for themselves or perhaps Mr Doe thinks he is more than one person.
  8. Would a confident and relaxed person bother to reply in an aggressive manner? Confident people put others at ease. I don’t see any evidence here that Mr Doe has the ability to do this, unless of course, he is confusing confidence with aggression (i.e. over-compensating, usually for low self-esteem).
  9. He complains about my take on Barack Obama, but at least I  bothered to use a capital letter for his name. Ah! That’ll be typing with one hand then! Or if you’re too “butch” to hit the caps lock, well that is a worry.
  10. I described President Obama as having the ‘best of our human qualities of compassion, understanding, leadership and the ability to listen to other viewpoints without seeking to crush them’. How does this demonstrate a lack of understanding? I didn’t criticise Mr Obama, I simply stated that, thankfully,  he is nothing like ‘self-proclaimed alpha males’ or ‘alpha males from the animal kingdom’.
  11. Apparently this lack of understanding leads to ‘extraordinary jealousy‘.  Well this demonstrates a lack of understanding because I think Mr Doe actually means ‘envy‘ not jealousy. To date, I have not met a self-proclaimed alpha male who provokes envy in me (or jealousy). Like everyone else, I view them with pity and contempt.
  12. Uses the phrase ‘people like myself’, shouldn’t that be ‘people like me’?
  13. Mr Doe then uses what I assume is the standard, but hardly relaxed or confident,  alpha male complimentary close of  ‘Good day. . . wimp!’. Yes, that show’s true leadership. . . let’s all follow John Doe! No! Not even on Twitter.
  14. Finally, why the ellipsis (…)? What’s missing Mr Doe? Possibly the words ” I am really a self-deluded, cowardly”. Just a suggestion.

Following on from this brief discourse analysis, although Mr Doe may not be representative of the population of men with ‘self-proclaimed’ alpha male status, I do thank him for providing such a wonderfully rich datum which I suggest  provides tentative support for my original assertions. People who boldly proclaim to be ‘alpha males’ are really nothing of the sort.

P.s. Quite what this says about me that I bothered to dignify his comment with a response, I don’t know.

Read the post: The Great ‘Typical Alpha Male’ Delusion