As I prepared for my last French class tonight, I got to thinking about different if slightly unrelated French topics that I wanted to wrap up tomorrow. One concept I wanted to touch on was the subjunctive which is a difficult verb tense in French for many people. I was thinking that the only time I ever use the subjunctive is to sound smart to native French speakers. (Interestingly, I am not one but that is a story for another day.)

There are examples of two verbal devices I can think of that I conciously use English to sound smart that I've been wanting to write about for a while. Giving away my secrets? I'd like to think of it as helping people, or probably just verbalizing something you already know intuitively.

The "Yes…and" Technique

I first read about this in Real Simple but I find this is a useful device to draw people out. The example they use:

Actor 1: "I made a blueberry pie."

Actor 2: "Yes, you made a blueberry pie. And you remember the last time we had blueberry pie?"

Actor 1: "Yes, I remember. We took a picnic into the woods, and that's when you said you wanted to join a nudist colony."

The yes and technique is primarily used to get people talking. Sometimes, for example, I'm interviewing someone and they're not saying much. By acknowledging what they've said previously (yes) and urging them to elaborate (and), I usually get a lot more information out of people. Knowledge is power!

The Dangling "So…"

This is going to sound mean but this is a technique you can use to get what you want. I believe I read this in Real Simple but I was unable to find the original article.

The basic premise is that most people are uncomfortable with silence. The other premise is that we like to subconsciously finish other people sentences, or help them out. Here's an example I've made up (kind of a bad one but you'll get my point):

Friend: I can't cook dinner tomorrow.

Me: Oh, well I have to work late tomorrow and I really don't have anyone else to ask so…(pause)

Friend: You know what, maybe I can do it. I'll just go to the gym early!

The idea is to let this so dangle in the air as long as possible until the other person answers you. Most people will feel compelled to answer when they are expected to. I have used this a few times and from what I can remember, the response has been in my favor.

What the heck does this have to do with money? Dealing with people is all psychology, my friends. Next time you're stuck talking to someone at a call center or haggling at the local market, give these two ideas shot, and let me know how it goes. I bet it will go better than you think.

Our first in-person workshop in 2+ years is happening September 24!