of a sudden they cool,” says the consultant, “ask yourself if you’ve made the pitch as appealing as possible. Maybe you didn’t quite hit the sweet spot the first time out, and they just weren’t dazzled enough to prompt action. So it’s time to probe a bit – call them back and say, ‘I’d re- ally love to work with you on this. Are there questions I haven’t answered? Timing issues we didn’t cover? Any- thing else that’s bothering you?’ Figure out what didn’t appeal to them in the first offer, then re-pitch the idea in another way.”


The Play: George, an account executive in the financial services industry, was asked to take a colleague who was new to the area on some sales calls. “He was a perfectly pleasant guy,” George recalls, “but I noticed that, when we were in with a client, he’d say things like, ‘George makes a good point there,’ or, ‘Yes, George, that’s right.’ It sounded like he was agreeing with me, but I was thinking, ‘Why does he feel entitled to com- ment on my performance? At one point, he even turned to the client – who was strictly my client, mind you – and said, ‘George will be happy to follow up on this and get back to you.’ I realized that, underneath what sounded like flattery, he was really creating the impression that he was above me. And it worked. One prospect actually thought this new guy was my boss.” The Counter: “Ignore him,” advises the consultant. “When someone is usurping you in a meeting or imply- ing that his judgment is more valid than your own, just keep plowing along. He’s going to feel weird talking to the air, and, once he realizes you don’t care what he thinks, he’ll eventually stop.” If you sense this blowhard is actually gaining ground, make sure you protect your turf. Send emails to clients or bosses prior to meetings that basically say, ‘Here are the key points we’ll be discussing.’ If you’re dealing with a client, this tells him you’re the contact person. If you’re dealing with your boss, this will ensure he knows that good idea was your good idea.

Cutting You Out of the Loop The Play: It’s the ultimate in passive-aggressive behavior: You don’t get a memo. You’re not invited on the golf out- ing. Or you’re given the cold shoulder in a group situation. One expert recalls a job she had, early in her career, where she noticed, “There were a couple of men on my level who never made eye contact with me in meetings. It started with two of them ignoring me, but, pretty soon, none of the men at the table were making eye contact. Something like this is hard to handle – you can’t exactly say, ‘Joe isn’t looking me in the eye,’ without coming off like a nutcase.” The Counter: “This strategy is designed to make you feel invisible,” says the expert. “So it’s important that you try not to shrink. I learned to speak up more in group


situations and to talk directly to the person – whether it was a boss or a client – whose opinion mattered most. I made sure that person understood that I was the one he or she needed to be dealing with. When someone tries to undermine power, it can actually make you aware of areas in which you need to be more assertive.”

How to Look More Powerful Power plays aren’t all bad. Sometimes they can be used for good – your good, that is. In her book Power Money Fame Sex, Gretchen Rubin outlines three stratagems that can make you look more powerful – without making it look like you’re trying to be more powerful.

“I Don’t Want It…I Need It” To pursue a perk or advantage, argue that you need it for the sake of efficiency. Practice saying these sentences: “Sure, I can take on the extra project, but my secretary’s already overwhelmed. We’ll have to get her some help.” Boom! You’ve got two secretaries. “Why don’t you come to my office – it’s closer to the café where we’re having lunch.” Boom! They’re on your turf. “I certainly don’t care about taking a private jet, but I’m not sure we can afford to lose the time it would take for me to fly commercial.” Boom! Your days in baggage claim are over.

Know What They Expect – and Do the Opposite The powerful person who makes a humble gesture signals supreme assurance, because he or she’s basically saying, “The rules don’t apply to me.” For years, after buying an airline, Richard Branson flew coach. Wolfgang Puck is rumored to be a junk-food junkie, and Bill Gates often appeared at important meetings in rumpled clothes. And let’s not forget Zuckerberg’s hoodie – not something any power woman could get away with but, still, you don’t see Oprah sporting huge diamonds or flaunting designer duds. We’re not saying you need to stroll into the office in shorts eating Fritos®

, but occasionally going against

the status quo can be a smart move. If it’s clear you could afford a Jaguar®

, driving an old Volkswagen® makes you seem above the materialistic competition and, thus, cool.

Never Let Them See You Sweat “The ultimate power play,” says the expert, “is what the Italians call spezzatura. It’s an easy, graceful carelessness. President John Kennedy was a master of it – he was always inviting the press to take pictures of him in sweaters, play- ing with his children. He was known for joking even under the most pressing circumstances, and this casualness made him seem all the more charismatic. Barack Obama is pretty good at that, too. The truly powerful don’t lose their tempers in public and don’t reveal when they’re worried or trying too hard.” In other words, not only should you never let them see you sweat – don’t let them see you buying antiperspirant, either. 

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