"Professional Relationships"


Nick Belton


On a bright sunny day, through the high tide of people, I walked towards my appointment with my communications consultant. Stepping into the stream of those moving away form the glass towers, towards the bookstores and cafes, I fell into step with the same basic instinct as those around me.

The offices of Professional Relationships is on the ground floor of a building devoted to self-improvement.   The first floor houses a guaranteed results gym where members are chained to treadmills and screams could be dimly heard through the double glazing.   On the roof was bungee therapy for people suffering mild depression.

I had employed Professional Relationships after suffering from unexpected guilt following a brief affair with an office colleague. I felt then that I needed help managing my long-term commitments of family and career against the competing demands of short-term opportunities. Professional Relationships helped me to adopt a flexible communications strategy whereby I could focus on whichever area offered the most opportunity , while being able to convince myself and my partners that I was working in their best interests. I was so pleased with the results of this strategy, that I commissioned Professional Relationships to take control of my e-mail and provide me with a 24-hour, on-demand prompting service should I ever find myself having difficulties in conversation with my partners or children.

My communication consultants held their appointments from behind two way mirrors, in order for their clients to concentrate on themselves and their needs; it also gave me the impression that it was a better version of me and not the consultant who was providing advice.

“Mr Jacobson, welcome to the solution space. We have assembled this week's mail and we have reviewed your conversation transcripts. We are ready to help you manage your current projection. Is there any unconnected pleasantry you would like to share before we begin?”

“Yes, I would just like to say that I am very pleased with my new shoes.”

“Mr Jacobson, your shoes reflect that the good always triumphs over the ugly. Now, Mr Jacobston, how do you think your new role as Patrician Authoritative father figure is being received by your family?”

“My wife thinks that I am practicing my calls to talk-back radio and my children are finding it hard to sit still during the full hour of my evening sermons.”

“This sounds like good progress. Mr Jacobson, remember that you should be ponderous and solemn when saying anything. And try to pretend that you are digesting every word that is spoken to you If in doubt you should try and imagine what Moses would do in your situation.”

“I find that it is easier to stay on target if I imagine that I am a forty foot giant and must be careful where I walk.”

“That's very good, Mr Jacobson. You should believe that the whole world will change if you decide it to be so; let your gravity flow! Your family will also expect you to be absolutely humorless.”

“I can't see that being a problem.”

“Moving on, Mr Jacobson, are you able to manage the transition from Authority Figure to world-weary and forlorn yet?

“I have to admit I find it very difficult to disguise my authority. I have had some success in believing that I do not get the credit I deserve”

“A good start, Mr Jacobson. Now you must try and imagine that the credit you deserve has actually been denied to you by a gross injustice—this will help you create the background emotions that will add credibility to your performance. Through the next week you should begin to let small amounts of this secondary persona be revealed to Ms Warrick. With the right conditions she will become fascinated by your hidden depths.”

“I have to say that I'm not impressed with this approach. I tried the same thing with Carla at the gym and received a very poor response.”

“Yes, but Mr Jacobson the point we wish to make is that hidden depths have to appear hidden if they are to have any credibility. Proclaiming loudly to Carla that you have hidden depths of experience that you might let her understand if she went to bed with you is a very loose translation of the Bogart Effect.”

“Well, that's what my hidden depths were telling me to do but I take your point.

“Very good, Mr Jacobson. One last matter before this rehearsal is finished, we have intercepted a disturbing e-mail from your computer yesterday. The sender claims to understand everything about you, to have seen your most intimate moments, to believe in your redemption and to hope for your happiness. In short, the sender is prepared to state for the record that they love you.”

“Oh my God! How could this happen? Who is the sender?”

“It is our considered judgment that it would be better for you not to know. In any case, we believe this to be a warning sign that someone has discovered your true identity. The important thing, Mr Jacobson, is to stay alert and believe in your performance. In the worst case scenario you can be assured that, as a Gold Club member of Professional Relationships, you are entitled to one free relocation and a discounted new identity.”

I heaved a sigh of relief. With the services of my communications consultants, I would not have to face these dangers alone.