Poker Face

Bluffing for dignity

Lately, I feel like beneath every Dr. Jekyll lurks Charlie Brown’s teacher. She’s everywhere. You go to the golf outing, “Wah wah wah waaah wah wah.” The board meeting, “Wah wah wah waaah.” The grocery store, “Waa! Wah wah waahh.” We’ve been in this fiscal disaster for close to two years (depending who you ask) yet there are people crying bloody murder like it’s just happening. I’m not saying these are easy times, but in the immortal words of Ricky Roma (Glengary Glen Ross), “Who told you you could work with men?”

Somehow, everyone has latched on to a need to emote. Maybe it was all the “feelings” we got in touch with while things were easy and carefree. Maybe it’s the Internet and all the bloggingfacebookingtweetingandtexting our teens have somehow convinced us we should be doing. I don’t really know how it started, and I don’t really care, I just want it to stop.

By now, you should be asking yourself how many times in the last week you’ve committed this networking crime. Are you in denial? Think again. No doubt you’ve fallen into the quicksand at least once recently.

Lately, I feel like beneath every Dr. Jekyll lurks Charlie Brown’s teacher.

Case Study: I’m a confident guy. But even I found myself caught in the muck at a fundie two nights ago. Glen Fiddich caught my ear at the bar before dinner. As he launched into his “I’ve never seen it like this” tirade, I found myself at first nodding politely. Then, just to not be rude, I offered a brief stint of commiseration. Next thing I know, some Johnny Walker is pulling at my sleeve trying to up the woe ante and I’m eyeball deep in a triumvirate of self pity I can’t get out of instead of working the room like I should be.

I realized later: Glen’s thrown a lot of business my way over the years. He’s so embarrassed the well is dry, he was overcompensating by gushing (and assessing blame to the market, the industry, the media and everyone else) instead of thinking about what he should be doing to change things. And just like that, another poor bastard gleefully bellyflops into the great pool of mediocrity. Remember: Networking is about keeping your dignity. Once you lose it, it’s hard to get back.

Pat Lempa can be emailed at, but he does not receive confessions.

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