I like to attend a lot of meetings. I don’t get paid for these strategic outings; I just find them by word of mouth and sit through them.
The last one I attended was for a public school where I do not work. They were trying to decide how to run the k-12 program with a reduced budget.
When I came into the meeting, they said, “You don’t look familiar. Are you new?” and asked me to introduce myself. I used the classic “vague affirm and specific redirect approach” that I was taught as part of my online graduate work.
“Yes. I don’t look very familiar and am new to this . . .state. But, I’d like to start with a story, if I may. . .”
This is a classic strategy and very handy when you forget your personal journal and instead want to tell the people at the meeting an annoyance in your life, while also eating as many of their donuts as you possibly can. The words “if I may” allow you to say basically anything and the hint of a “story” allows for people to think of you as sort of a theatrical podcast.
For instance, I began to tell them about this annoying vet experience I had where I thought the veterinarian’s personality was cold and made me feel awkward about repeating the word “feces” and “rectal area” over and over again. She didn’t seem like she was familiar with this technical language, so I just kept repeating it, “feces, feces, feces,” but her face was like a stone. Then she said, “You should bring in a sample.” How annoying can you get? I took eight classes on dealing with difficult online patients. It appeared her “degree” from “a real college” failed to stress the importance of this. When I finished telling this story, the teachers around the table, looked at me, surprisingly annoyed, but I had said “if I may,” so it was totally fine. Their time to object had long passed and we all knew it.
Also, they should be grateful they got to hear such an interesting story. It seemed like they had a lot of other things they needed to do and like they were somehow unhappy that they had to get up at 5am and be at the school and then grade at night in their kitchens and then couldn’t properly enjoy their weekends because of some kind of existential dread of Sunday nights. Personally, I was pretty glad I had spent those eleven years on the online medical veterinary leadership md/phd/mba program at that point. Some of us contribute to this world and some of us don’t.
Which brings me to the only word you need in a French conversation: exactement.
I learned it over Christmas and it has come in extraordinarily handy. Like in that meeting, no one said anything positive about my contribution to their daily agenda. They just looked down to the floor and one teacher seemed to be preoccupied by giving some of his own lunch to a student, so I just waited a few seconds, to make people think I hadn’t been the one telling the interesting story in the form of a soliloquy and I said “Exactement!” and left. I felt better after complaining to these strangers and there were many job related things I had needed to get done that day and if I didn’t go to bed now I wouldn’t get my normal eleven hours of sleep; the e-mail form letter diploma I received needed to be framed and hung over my online office immediately.