Most People Don’t Give a Crap About You

Enter some old wise man.

Every day, at eleven A.M., a crotchety, old professor walked through school cafeteria. He had a bag lunch, but he insisted on grabbing a tray to lay his lunch out on. I don’t know if the man was as wise as the typical old man, or if he was any wiser. I do not know if the man had any allegiances, as his lectures did not favor a political party, a religion, a gender, race, persuasion, or class. He didn’t appear to favor me in anyway either, even when I was speaking to him. It was frustrating.

When we tell people others those crucial, crisis moments of our lives, we expect them to side with us, regardless how they feel about it in private. This old man didn’t bother with such niceties. It was annoying. I reached a point where I wanted him to give me just one thing that I was correct about in a manner that was unequivocal. He did tell me I was correct in some circumstances, but he added so many variables that I never achieved a sense of satisfaction. I never left his class, or his lunch table, feeling that I had the correct answer about anything. As a result, I sought his counsel on a number of issues that plagued me.


He never seemed pleased by my need to seek his counsel, but he never seemed annoyed by it either. He never greeted me in a pleasant fashion, but he was not rude either. He was the type of guy that I’ve always tried to please. A dog acts this way, I realized before I approached him with one particular question. A dog finds that one person in the room that is ambivalent to its existence, and it attempts to befriend them. This could be a result of the dog’s identity being so wrapped up in its cuteness, that when that cuteness is not acknowledged by one person in the room, that identity is challenged, and the dog cannot move on until it has convinced that one person that it’s as cute as everybody else thinks it is.

Some people have complimented me for my objectivity, and they’ve said that my observational skills exceed most of those they encounter, so why do I continue to seek the counsel of the one person that doesn’t acknowledge my attributes in a complimentary manner?  Am I as insecure as the attention craving dog with an identity crisis?  Did I need him to tell me, “You’re the one living life the way it should be lived?” The answer was that I saw this man’s ambivalence as objectivity. I thought he might be the one to answer my questions about life in a manner that was neither complimentary nor insulting, and he did … in one short, ambivalent sentence.

“My friend and I have been having a debate,” I informed the crotchety, old professor. “I believe people are inherently good, until they prove otherwise.” I told him that I considered living with an optimistic mindset the only way to live. I told him that optimistic people should be prepared to be wrong about humanity on occasion, but that that anecdotal evidence should not dissuade them from the overriding belief that most people are pretty decent.

“My friend thinks this is a naïve way of approaching humanity,” I continued. “He thinks it’s best to live by the idea that everyone you run across is corrupt, until they prove otherwise. You shouldn’t trust anyone outside your immediate family, he said. So you’re prepared for that slime ball that you will run across that attempts to dupe you out of everything you hold sacred. Not everyone we run across will be evil, he concedes, but it’s best to be prepared for those that are.”

“I’ll give you a third possibility,” this professor said chewing on some awful smelling, squishy sandwich. “Have you ever considered the possibility that most people don’t give a crap about you?”

It may have been twenty years since that professor dropped that line on me, but it’s had such a profound impression on me that I still can’t shake it. It’s as if he said it to me yesterday.

Most of us know, on a certain level, that the world doesn’t give a crap about us, and on a certain level we don’t give a crap about them, but how many things do we do in one day to convince the others around us that we’re wonderful people?

Depending on the nature of their interactions, most people don’t care that we have an optimistic outlook on them that offers them a chance to be wonderful. Most people won’t approach us based on whether our perspective is positive or negative. Most people don’t give a crap about us, or our perspective. The slime balls and shysters of the world aren’t more wary of us if we are more prepared for them, and the very idea that we believe that we’re more prepared for them may, in fact, be our undoing when they flip the page on us and become the guy that we want them to be. They’re bad guys, and this is what they do, but that doesn’t mean they give a crap about what we may think of them when our interaction is complete.

Enter the salesman.

Anyone that has had a stressful sales job, with commission-based pay, knows that a majority of the population are now more prepared for slime balls that are employed in sales. Most people employed in sales aren’t slime balls, but they’re prepared for us to think they are.

We salespeople are provided a massive training manual that contains a reactions section, given to us by the sales training team. As with everything else in life, the language in sales’ training manuals is not as overt as the illustration I will provide here, but anyone that has been on a sales training team knows the reactions a training team are required to give their salespeople before they hit the floor, and those “reactions” are well represented in these manuals.

If a salesperson receives a simple “No thank you” from a potential client, for example, the salesperson is instructed to turn to page 23 of the “reactions” section of this sales training manual, if the salesperson receive a “hell no!” they’re instructed to turn to page 46 of the reactions section, and if they receive that witty retort –that their potential client thought up that morning in the mirror– in preparation for a slime ball like them, “If it’s so great why don’t you buy it?” they turn to page 69. If the reaction they receive is a rehearsed one that calls a sales person out for being the slime ball that you know they are, “Because I know slime balls,” salespeople are instructed to turn to page 92.

The best defense, for those potential clients that have intention of becoming one, is to take a step back and realize that they’re in the majority of those people that don’t trust salespeople, and that they’re in a majority of people that believe they have the perfect witty response that will put a salesperson in their place. The defense also requires an acknowledgement from the potential client that they cannot play this game better than us. This is our home turf, and we know how to play this game better than most of those we call. We have been trained with focus group tested responses that can be summarized in the idea that we don’t give a crap about you.

We, salespeople, don’t give a crap that you may be the smartest man that ever walked the earth. We’ve been trained to avoid the idea that the potential client might be a pretty good guy that knows the worst of humanity when they happen upon them. We were trained to make the sale, regardless what anyone may think of us, or our abilities. If the reader wants to know the super-secret way to defeating a salesperson at their game, a method that will separate them from the pack that have their psychology twisted and turned into a sale, it involves the psychological complexities inherent in hanging up the phone in the midst of the salesperson’s sales pitch.

In just about every sales job I’ve had in telemarketing firms, there is one constant: the salesperson is not allowed to hang up the phone. No matter what “the smartest man that ever walked the earth” on the other end of the phone says, the salesperson cannot hang up. A sales rep has sales quotas, and time allotments for each call, and the smart people “who know slime balls when they happen upon them” are wasting everybody’s time by trying to outdo us. By hanging up the phone, the potential client is saving themselves, and the slime ball, salesperson a lot of time and frustration.

After spending so much time in training, strategy meetings, and coaching sessions, I thought I found the perfect solution, and the ideal rationale to back up that solution, that could help so many in my inner circle avoid the frustration of a sales call. I told them that the only action the “reactions” portion of the training manual didn’t cover, because it couldn’t, was the hang up. It is fool proof, I told them. I received blank, “of course” stares. No one refuted my findings, but no one followed them either.

This is the point where the line ‘psychological complexities inherent in hanging up the phone’ comes into play, for most people cannot simply hang up a phone. I don’t know if doing so violates everything our mothers told us about phone etiquette, or if people have too much invested in the idea that they are one of the very few people on the planet that can spot a slime ball and beat them at their game, but hanging up the phone just seems too easy and too anti-climactic.

Most salespeople are not smarter, or craftier, than anyone else, but we have huge advantage: years, sometimes decades, of focus tested material at our disposal. Our training teams have learned from the trial and error experiences of the salespeople in their company, and other companies trading trade secrets, regarding the best ways to flip a potential client. They have alternatives available for just about every personality that decides to work in sales for them. Most of these companies have hundreds of salespeople on the floor making calls, and they know that most people are not aggressive self-starters. They have fashioned responses for these people to help them sound smart, crafty, and pleasing to the average potential client. So, the next time a person step into what most potential clients consider a duel of the minds at the O.K. Corral, they should know that they are armed with nothing but their wits and their adversary is armed with a time-tested, rapid fire machine gun.

If a potential client is fortunate enough to run across the salesperson that is daunted by the client’s perspicacity and insurmountable wit, and the salesperson cannot respond to the witty retorts that were thought up that day in the mirror, that salesperson will be pulled into a boardroom for coaching tips. These coaching tips will revolve around the concept that the salesperson should stop caring so much what potential clients say. If that salesperson continues to be intimidated by the mind games potential clients will play, they will be replaced by one that isn’t.

For those “slime balls” that strive to excel in sales, a sales call can be like an inescapable penitentiary to a convict. Inmates don’t give a crap that good men have spent their lives designing and fortifying a fortress to make it impossible to escape. Most inmates aren’t the type to appreciate craftsmanship, until they begin searching for that one weakness in the structure. The very idea that the fortress is considered an inescapable is what intrigues them. They spend their days and nights focused on finding that crack in the walls good men have built to keep them in. Few inmates believe they are bad guys that need to do time for the crime they committed. They want freedom. They want to escape.

Quality salespeople approach sales in the same manner, in that they don’t give a crap if anyone considers them a wonderful person. They spend countless hours in training seminars and strategy sessions, trying to find the perfect way to flip someone like you. They discuss you on their lunch hour, and they take you to the after work bar to discuss the minutiae of your phone call with their peers. As hard as they try to separate their work life from their home, they will take your wit and intellect home with them, and they will discuss you with their spouse, and they will eat you with their tuna salad sandwich, and they will spend hours of insomnia staring at the ceiling with you on their mind. It’s not about being nice or mean to a quality salesperson, and it’s not even about the product they’re selling. As many top-tier salespeople will tell anyone that is interested enough to hear it, sales is not about selling a product as much as it is about a salesperson selling themselves.

If you’ve ever been in sales, in an office of hundreds of people, you’ve witnessed a salesperson lose it:

“How dare you say that to me?” one man said into the microphone attachment of his headset. “Sir, that’s uncalled for,” he said at another point in his phone call with an irate customer. “I understand sir, but I don’t think that personal insults are necessary.” 

This particular salesman was a tenured agent on the floor, and my interactions with him led me to believe he was a level-headed feller that was in full control of his emotions. This phone call appeared to have him on the verge of tears. I wondered, for a moment, if he was ill-suited for the job. I flirted with the notion that he may have been doing this for so long that he was burned out. I also wondered if I was suited for the job, for if this otherwise this level-headed guy could fall prey to hysterics, anyone could. When his call ended, I asked him if he was okay. My concern was more self-serving than an actual concern I had for his well-being.

“Are you all right?” I asked.

“What?” he asked. He laughed and made a clicking noise with his mouth, followed by a wave of his hand, to suggest that the phone call hadn’t affected him in any way. “Just making the sale,” he said filling out a ticket that we all had to complete after completing a sale.

My “Are you all right?” question became an ongoing joke for a little while, any time an agent engaged in theatrics to complete a sale. “I’m fine,” the responding jokester would say fluttering a completed ticket in the concerned, fellow jokester’s face. “Just fine.”

My time spent as a phone sales agent taught me as much about human psychology, as it did sales. It taught me that when the prospective client, enter the salesperson’s lot with all of their witty responses and refusals, that if these salespeople are any good at what they do, they will understand more about the client’s psychology than they do. Coupled with the strategy sessions, and peer review, is the eight hours a day, forty hours a week, hands on application and trial and error of dealing with the best response the client has ever heard regarding a sales call from an annoying telemarketer.

The most shocking aspect for those that receive non-stop, telemarketing sales calls, might be that to a tenured salesperson exploiting a client’s weaknesses no longer provides much of a thrill. Most experienced salespeople are so well-schooled in your psychology that flipping you into the sale is just something they do in the course of a day.

Enter the panhandler.

The panhandler also doesn’t give a crap about the person that hands them money. They may manipulate the psychology of the generous person for the period of time it takes to complete the transaction, but the minute that transaction is complete they will turn back to street. They won’t remember anything about that person. They may remember that that person handed them a twenty dollar bill, as opposed to the fives they’ve received from everyone else, but that will change nothing in their head but the math involved in their calculations. They may be fond of the giver for as long as that transaction takes to complete, and they may give that person some of the obligatory responses they seek, but that’s done to feed into the ego of their giver, and the general sense of altruism that may encourage them to believe their altruistic enough to give out another twenty in the future. When a panhandler proceeds to purchase their goods, however, they won’t smile when they think of the overwhelming generosity they’ve encountered that day. They won’t think of the person that gave them a twenty, as opposed to a five, because they don’t give a crap about them.

They also won’t give a crap that a hard working person with a couple extra bucks trusts them to do something fruitful with the money they’ve given them. As far as the panhandler is concerned, it’s their money now, and they’ll do whatever the hell they want with it.

“That guy must’ve been feeling real guilty about something,” they may say when they are gathered with their snickering peers in regards to the twenty dollar bill fella, but that generous person doesn’t care that they may say that. That’s not why they gave them some of their hard-earned money. They had no agenda. They did it because they’re a generous person with a wonderful sense of altruism about them. Bottom line. If that’s the case, they should continue to give panhandlers money. They should not do it with the belief that the recipient of their largesse will think that that they are a better person for doing it. They won’t. They will not consider that person bad for giving them the money, of course, and they may not even consider them were a chump for doing it, but my guess is that they accept that person’s money with all of the consideration, and emotion, of a courteous ticket taker at a movie theater completing that transaction.

Enter the fashion aficionado.

Nobody gives a crap what people wear either. This part may be the hardest part for some to believe, for we’ve all received compliments for the clothes we’ve worn, and we’ve all adjusted our wardrobe based on those compliments. Clothes make the man, is something we’ve all said for generations. ‘People pay attention,’ some say. ‘I’ve heard it. I’ve witnessed it firsthand.’

Unless the person that wears the finest clothes known to man informs those around them that they will wear nothing but the finest clothes known to man, a greater percentage of the people they run across will not remember anything about another person’s wardrobe choices. Some will, of course, and those are the people we think about in the morning, in the mirror, as we dress. We dress to impress. The question is how many will notice?  How many people, in a room full of let’s say twenty, would notice anything about our clothing choices for the day?  Our conceit leads us to believe that it’s more than we may think, for most people don’t vocalize their impressions, but the reality suggests otherwise.

In a psychological study, cited in David McRaney’s book You are Not so Smart, subjects were instructed to wear a flamboyant Barry Manilow T-shirt. Some of the subjects were so embarrassed by the prospect of doing this that they couldn’t bring themselves to do it. They didn’t think their pride could take the hit. They believed that people would forever remember them as the guy that wore the Manilow T-shirt that one day. Those subjects that conceded to wear the shirt were instructed to interrupt a class full of students to ask the professor a question. The result: 25% of the students in the class could remember any details about the flamboyant, Manilow T-shirt. In a separate part of the same experiment McRaney cites, a subject was instructed to wear the finest duds available to man and interrupt a professor’s class in a similar manner. The result: 10% of the students in the class remembered any details about the finest duds available to man. Very few people give a crap about what we’re wearing, and even fewer will remember what we wore yesterday, because most people don’t give a crap about us.

Enter the Speaker.

Nobody gives a crap that we just messed up in our speech, and they don’t even care when we apologize for our mess up. As David McRaney suggests, “Most people don’t pay enough attention to a speech to know that an error was made, until the speaker apologizes for their error.” Most people just want us to get on with it, so they can go home to watch their shows.

How many of us have committed a show stopping error that we assumed everyone in the auditorium noticed? We stopped in our speech, under the assumption that it would be pointless to continue. We believe that we have just lost all credibility with out audience? We look out onto our audience with an overwhelming sense of shame?  It’s been my experience that those that are paying attention, are looking at the speaker in a manner that says, “Just get on with it!”  They don’t care that we just mispronounced “Nucular”, or “Eckspecially”, or that we may have mixed up our tenses, or lost our place. They just want us to get to the reason they decided to attend the seminar in the first place.

How many errors have professional speakers committed in one hour? How many of those errors did we consider egregious? Yet, we watched the professional speaker move on, as if nothing happened? ‘How can they do that?’ we wonder with amazement. ‘That was an egregious error that would’ve crippled us.’ The professional speaker knows that most people aren’t paying near as much attention as we are, and the fact that they are able to move on is what has separated them from the likes of us. That hutzpah is what has made them a speaker that people are willing to pay to hear.

The very idea that the speech we are delivering should’ve been perfect was our dream scenario, and if we could find a route around our self-indulgent desires that this speech may have been the greatest speech delivered since they laid Winston Churchill to rest, we might find that most people care far more about how a speech was delivered than they do what was delivered in that speech. They may want a nugget of information that they didn’t have before entering the ballroom, and if that speaker can deliver that, everything else will fade away.

Nobody gives a crap that another person may have mustard on their collar, that they have mismatched socks, or that they haven’t talked all day because they’re upset about the fact that their husband has become lactose intolerant. We may listen to these complaints, but how many times does one person intro their statements with something along the lines of:  “I’ll bet you’re wondering why I’m so quiet today?” How many times did we notice that they weren’t speaking?  How many times did we fail to notice that, because we were focusing on our own problems?  We all feel the need to tell other people our problems, and in response those people tell us the problems they have that they think are so much worse. In the end, neither party gives a crap, because most people aren’t paying that much attention to one another. They just want their workday to end, so they can get on with the lives that most people don’t give a crap about.