The Changing Game (Issue 753)

In which we are encouraged to practice our conversation and sales skills in everyday life so they’re sharp when we need them in sales calls.

I play an airport game called “The Changing Game,” also known as “Don’t Touch Floors or Walls” at airports. Not just ANY walls – the walls of men’s room stalls. And not just any stalls, either. Narrow ones.

I prefer to fly ‘business casual,’ not wearing full business regalia: Suit, hard leather shoes, tie. So, my first or second priority, when I reach my arrival or departure airports, is to change clothes. Since I’m a bit on the cheap side, I don’t pay for airline club access privileges, so I find one of the lesser used men’s rooms and begin the “The Changing Game”.

There are two rules to win. First: My feet cannot touch the floor without shoes. Second: No part of my body can touch the side walls of the stall or the front door. Piece of cake, yes?

So, here’s the drill: Enter the stall with my brief case and my carry-on bag and strategically place them close to the front of the stall. Turn around to face the front of the stall. Start from the top down, removing suit jacket, tie, belt, then pants, finally shoes. Dress from the bottom up. Comfortable shoes, comfortable pants, belt, and (typically) a black fleece to keep me warm when onboard the plane. At the strategic transition point – when I’m going from one pair of shoes to the other – I balance on one leg to remove the shoe from the opposite foot, then (bending slightly while maintaining one leg balance) I snag and slip my foot into the replacement shoe. No feet on floor.

There’s risk: More than once, I’ve resorted to Sudden Emergency Adjustments (breaking the two game rules) to avoid falling backwards into the toilet.

Success in the game requires thoughtful movement. It also requires more than typical strength in the small muscles around the ankles [you can find these by standing on one leg for two or three minutes while you brush your teeth]. It also requires the ability to bend over to touch your toes while standing on one leg [e.g. while standing on your left foot only, bend over and touch the toes on your left foot].

Both of these require practice. It’s the small muscles around the ankles that hold us in place. So, I practice frequently in short intervals when I’m NOT in airports, for example, by standing on one leg or the other to brush my teeth or complete other daily tasks, or by bending over to pick up something on the floor while standing only on one leg, or by putting on and tying my sneakers while standing only on one leg.

So… now that I’ve provided even more evidence that I’m a little nuts, I’ll just say there are several benefits to practicing these important skills before I need them to play “The Changing Game.” First, balance. One can never work enough on balance. Second, strength. Bearing weight on one leg builds strength. Third: Mindfulness and control. To stand on one leg and do any upper body physical movements requires some sense of actions and consequences and a certain amount of discipline in movement.

At the risk of underestimating readers’ abilities to translate this metaphor, the same is true with conversation skills like asking questions, acknowledging, encouraging, and sharing information. They’re all skills we need in sales calls and, if we practice them only when we’re with clients for sales calls, it’s likely we’ll lurch into walls from time to time and, occasionally, there will be sales calls that go into the toilet.

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