My business meeting checklist:
- Macbook (remember projector adapter and charger in case the laptop starts to fade mid-presentation)
- Blackberry (remember to sync with calendar before getting on the plane; I’ll undoubtedly need the phone number of the media buyer of the second meeting or to triple-check the time of my fourth meeting)
- A pair of flats in case I find myself lost in heels (San Francisco is hilly)
- My engagement ring
One of these things is not like the other, of course, and it comes in the form of a still-sparkly solitaire that was worn for a painfully short period of time.
I didn’t give my son’s Father back his ring when we parted ways. He didn’t want it and neither did I but it didn’t seem couth to throw it in the garbage disposal. Nor was it appealing to change it into a pendant or a pair of glittery earrings; that would be like wearing my failure, my guilt like a tarnished badge on my face. So I banished it to the bottom of my ramshackle jewelry box, next to chunky necklaces and ensnared between beaded bracelets. I had no idea that, a year and a half later, I’d be fishing that ring out, putting it on my finger, and taking it with me to business meetings.
I’m in corporate sales, and have been for the last ten years. I suspect that many think that there is technique and finesse and plotting involved in sales — and I guess to a degree there is — but the bottom line of my job is that I need to make people like me. If they like and trust me, they’ll be more likely to buy my product. If they feel an affinity with me, they’ll go out of their way to give me an advantage, a leg up over my competitor with the surly attitude and bad breath. Of course product is important, too, but business lunches and dinners are all about bonding.
And bonding, of course, occurs when comfortable conversation transpires and I have learned that business acquaintances are much more at ease when they learn I have a child if I am wearing my ring on my wedding finger.
It’s not that I lie and say that I’m married, but the ring creates the assumption that I am, and I’ve found, for surface-level business conversation, it’s easier that way. I don’t wonder whether my prospective customer thinks I have left my kid at home with an incompetent babysitter while I flit around the Pacific Coast in pinstripes. I don’t analyze whether he thinks I will be too busy juggling solo to adequately handle his account. If our business relationship deepens to comeraderie, he may learn I’m a single Mom and that’s OK. Some single Moms just like decorative rings. On their wedding fingers. Right?
I realize this is a bit of a crutch for me, and time and distance will give me confidence to place the ring back in its rightful home in my disgruntled jewelry box. But for now, it also comes in pretty handy for those plane rides home, when I’m looking to avoid conversation with my single eager seatmate, and close my eyes and dream about going home to hug my son.
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