Explorations of mind, paths, and life

Art of Sweet-Talk

Posted on April 12, 2009 - Filed Under self reflect

Sweet-talking is one of those things that I learned from an early age. It isn’t about manipulating as much as being aware of how body language and tone play a role in interactions. I never have to make things up – honesty works great, given with the softness of a female voice and a quick smile.

Now, where did I learn this skill, exactly, in the time line of my life? That is an amazing question. Certainly as children grow and explore the world they quickly figure out how behavior elicits response. I am sure, as I was growing up, that being soft and humorous was more effective than being coarse and detached. And it didn’t hurt to be a girl.

Just today, on an adventure to complete a project, (Nope, project NOT complete… pretty much all ventures were a dead end until the next time I tackle them… I really wish I could sweet-talk time into slowing itself down a bit more.) I took myself to the Antique Mall, determined to find a vendor with old children’s books. As I plowed through vendor after vendor…ignoring their wares and getting snickers and dejected nods, I eventually ended up in the last room of the building, piled high with junk. I had been there once or twice, and the vendor, Bob, has a larger space, dusty and piled with artifacts of every sort. You could spend hours identifying things and regarding the nick-knacks. I remembered a corner he had with books of all kinds, stacked and carelessly assorted.

I plunked down my purse, took a seat in a chair, and began rummaging through… small towers of books falling on me occasionally as I pulled yet another book from the shelf. Eventually I had about 4 books selected. His prices, in my opinion, were an insult. $65 for a children s book whose first 20 pages had yellowed aged tape holding them together, and other pages missing entire chunks. The binding barely holding on for dear life. I carried them up and asked, “Are the penciled prices in these books your ACTUAL prices?” He confirmed.

THIS is when behavior and body language morph an experience. I smiled, my biggest most brilliant smile. “Maybe,” he said, “if you show me what you have I can give you a bulk discount.” He looked through the books, and I quickly pointed out the one for $65. “Are you sure that price is appropriate?” (Meanwhile, I was looking at a $100+ bill for the four books alone.) “Yes, this book lists for $110 online.” “In this condition?” I ask, smiling and making sure my eyes were smiling too. “Tell you what, I will give you the pile for $60.” That was still a bit high, but I didn’t show the insult I was feeling. Instead we did a little verbal negotiation for about 2 minutes, toying with how flexible each of us was willing to be.

I didn’t buy any books. However, Bob and I chatted about them and many others for about 20 minutes. As he recognized my appreciation for the illustrations inside, he brought out some of his hidden treasures. We talked about favorites in our own collections, and I sweet-talked a new relationship. As I carefully leafed through a few wonderful pieces, I also attended to all kinds of other information: Bob was a naval engineer who has always had a love for antiques. He thinks he should be retired already but he still has too much junk to sell. He suggested that in a year he should close up shop and take off to Jamaica to watch the women dance and spend his last days breathing in their “top-less” beauty. I can bet, if I go back in a few weeks, he’d will be willing to bring the price down a few more notches.

Sweet-talk, for me, isn’t about manipulation at all. It is about relationships. I got more entertainment out of listening to his stories than in most of my day running around looking for what I needed. I think the old curmudgeon enjoyed some positive regard by a young brown eyed woman for a half an hour. He even made sure I knew he was single! Maybe I didn’t get what I wanted (that $65 book!) but I had given up on the negotiations for the simple enjoyment of talking about everything else. I am sure he would have considered dropping the price more had I asked, the book was a mess. Instead we both parted empty handed but content – I had gotten him thinking about exotic Jamaican ladies… what more can you ask for?


One Response to “Art of Sweet-Talk”

  1. Anonymous on April 12th, 2009 3:36 pm

    How lovely and insightful!
    Excellent approach, Miss Evelyn, but you gave up your wonderful treasures. I would have made sure I walk away with those books on my own terms. That is what I love so much about you, your INTEGRITY AND HONESTY, of course those gorgeous baby like eyes.