I’m Interested, but…

by Emily Jasper on September 29, 2009

Have you been in a situation where you wanted something more from someone than they wanted it? If you’ve ever dated, this is usually the reason for most breakups. But what about beyond dating?

In work, there’s the same idea of courtship, where you tell yourself you can’t come across as the desperate one. Sales people run into this all the time. It’s about convincing someone they want you more than anyone else, including themselves. (On the other hand, impulse buying could probably be likened to a one night stand.)

I’ve been in situations where my eagerness to work on a project or with a team could have been considered immature. Apparently if you really want something, you have to dance around to get it…instead of taking the direct route. But why is expressing interest considered immature? Can’t you just say, hey, I’m interested?

Nope, instead you turn it into a game of hard-to-get and have to add a big old fat “but” on the end.

“I’m interested, but the timing isn’t really right for me.”

“I’m interested, but I’m pursuing another project right now. I’d need to see if I could make time to fit this in.”

“I’m interested, but you should know I’m the Ruler of the Universe and require everyone to call me as such.”

OK, the last one may be a bit of a stretch. The game of hard-to-get sets it up so that you come across as the high-value resource, and the other party appears to be the desperate one. You want the other group to sit by the phone, constantly check email, and develop manic behavior while they agonize over whether you’ll commit to the project.

I wouldn’t consider myself an expert at hard-to-get. If anything, that’s the reason I prefer the more direct route. “Hey, I’m interested in this project. Let me talk to my boss and see if I can get permission to help out.” I’ve even noticed some of the same behavior from my peers. When working with someone from my generation, I rarely expect to see any kind of gaming behavior. On the other hand, I break out my tactics notes when working with older groups. If I don’t use some of these tactics, we never get anything done.

So some suggestions:

Determine how the project team operates. Are they passive? Are they direct? Is it all meetings and no execution?

Figure out the same for the group leader and how the group responds. Is he a figurehead and the group ignores him? Does he take over and dictate?

Take baby steps as you navigate the group. Especially if you are a newer member, tread lightly. Operate through suggestions until you can determine more effective communication.

Whatever happens, fulfill your role in the group. Do what’s been asked of you, and do it well. You will show value and can earn credibility points by doing your job.

Any other rules for hard-to-get? Any other ways to get around the “but”?

The views expressed in my blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Photo from clipart.