$41 Worth of Influence

Today I put my influence skills to work….I fought a $41 parking ticket!

I live in the city and parking tickets are a regular part of my life, something that I like to think of as a charitable contribution for the betterment of the city. Occasionally, however, I get a ticket which I feel justified fighting…and today was my hearing.

Awhile back, our urban neighborhood had one of its many “events” where hundreds of people with their cars drive into the area. This particular event goes on for about one month, so needless to say, it wears thin. Despite permit parking, there are absolutely no parking spaces available and creativity is needed! After an hour of driving around for the 30th night, I found my spot. So what if one-fourth of my car was in a bus zone, three-fourths of the body was legal. Given the circumstances of the demand for parking, I felt justified….apparently the police didn’t think so!

My husband laughed when I told him of my plans this morning to fight the ticket….”Why bother,” he said. “You were parked illegally”. Like pregnancy, there is no such thing as “a little illegal”.

But off to traffic court I went. Much to my surprise I was called in after only a 15 minute wait to meet with the hearing officer…Things were looking good despite the 3-way screaming match I had just witnessed between another ticketed resident, the traffic court receptionist and the security officer.

Upon entering the hearing officer’s office, I noticed a tremendous array of sports paraphernalia. So, I opened our conversation with a little rapport building through humor and said, “So, I can see you like the ballet.” A little confused at first, he laughed. We then got down to business. I mentioned my conversation with my husband this morning and told him how my husband thought I didn’t stand a chance fighting this ticket. After all, I was illegally parked (Attune/Disclosing). I asked him if he ever attended the annual event in our area (Inquire/Ask Questions). He said he was familiar with it but never attended. He mentioned that he heard it was a real mob scene and parking was difficult….he then mentioned that he heard several complaints from others. I restated, “So you know how crazy it can get” (Listen/Check Understanding). He replied, “Of course…your ticket is reversed and I have backed it out of the computer system.” I thanked him and as I was getting up to leave I asked him how he felt about the Super Bowl outcome (Inquire/Ask Questions). We chatted about the great lessons of the Giants being replayed to kids for many years to come (Enlist/Envision) despite neither of us being Giants’ fans (Attune/Identify with Other).

Back at my office, I reflected on this conversation with Kim Barnes. She asked what made my influence attempt successful and I realized it was because I behaved in that moment counter to what my natural inclinations would have been. I stayed on the Receptive side, guiding our brief discussion without ever having to convince the hearing officer of my rightness. What a pleasant experience and again, as I behaviorally dissect it, I am learning from it!

Lauren Powers is Barnes & Conti’s Eastern Regional Director.

For more information on Exercising Influence visit: http://www.barnesconti.com/programs/influence.html. Exercising Influence will be offered as an open enrollment program on March 4-5 in Washington, DC, March 11-12 in Pleasant Hill, CA, and April 10-11 in Atlanta, GA. To register for a public program visit: http://www.barnesconti.com/ppsched.php

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