One of the keys to my ability to work 40 hours a week and homeschool two kids is that I have great time management. Which is to say, I say no to just about everything. But learning when to say no is still a work in progress. Here’s what I know about saying no to phone calls:
1. It’s more efficient to read the book than talk to the author.
I get about ten emails a day asking me if I want to talk to someone about their book so I'll recommend it on the blog. My answer is always no.
I said yes once because it was Gloria Steinem. And it turned out to be a really disappointing phone call. If she is disappointing pitching to me, then everyone else will be, too.
Now I ask people to send me the book. If I like the idea of it, I'll read it. I just read a book by Alexandra Robbins about why high school is destroying the kids who go there. She didn't come to that conclusion, I did. But see, that's why it's good that I read the book myself instead of talking to her.
2. Interviews are a faster form of entertainment than going to a movie.
But I do try to say yes to all interviews. I like the Russian Roulette aspect of interviews in that I never know what I'll get. I liked getting grilled on CNN about my miscarriage. They didn't tell me that was the topic, but it's okay. It was interesting to answer the questions.
And I didn't like talking to Steve Roy about his career, but whenever I listen to the recording of the call, I laugh out loud, so in hindsight, even that was a good interview to say yes to.
So this guy, Michael Zenn, sent me this email:
Subject hed: Your Input
…I am currently in the process of producing a new edition of my book and reaching out to interview some of the leading female thought leaders in the nation, which I believe you are one.
I will be adding a brand new material to the book and am looking for female influencers, bloggers, websites, resources and ideas that I could potentially feature in the new book that would benefit women readers.
Please let me know when you might have a few minutes for us to chat.
I replied with a yes. I figured I'd give him 15 minutes, and anyway, people never call me about food, so it might be fun to answer questions about that.
3. Smalltalk goes faster with short responses.
Here's what happened. He opened up with some platitudes. Like, who he is and that his book is sold in Whole Foods and it's the only book the CEO of Whole Foods has ever endorsed.
I think a few things. I think, I hope he gets to the questions fast. Then I think, he must be the illicit lover of the Whole Foods CEO to be leveraging the checkout counter in the way that he is. He is telling me how his first printing will sell out in one month. And I am thinking, something is fishy here.
Then he says he reads my blog, and he wonders if I have always been so direct and unfiltered.
I say, “Yes.”
He asks, “Do you know why?”
I say, “Yes. I have Asperger’s Syndrome.”
He has never heard of it.
“It's like autism,” I say. “But with a high IQ. I'm smart about some things, but not social skills. So I have no patience for you making small talk with me.”
He laughs. He says “Oh, it's like you can't tell a lie.”
“I wish I had more people in my life like that,” he says.
“No you don't,” I say. “You'd get sick of it.”
4. Tirades take too long (and they’re hard to stop once you get going)
He asks, “What is your goal? What do you want to tell the world?”
“I don't want to stand in front of everyone and tell them what to do. Because I don't know. Life is hard. I'm trying to figure out how to deal with the difficulties of life, and I like that people do that with me, on my blog.”
He says, “Yeah, it's much better to just be honest about what you're doing.”
Then he asks me if I have written at all about the food I eat.
I think to myself that he is either illiterate or a liar. I say, “Yeah, I live on a farm. With animals that we eat. I write a lot about that. With pictures.”
I can't remember what happens next. I think I decide to tell him that all of the goat cheese that's labeled by Whole Foods is made by killing the boy goats as soon as they are born. I hear nothing on his end. So I add that they are crushed underfoot, in the snow.
I tell him people need to pay a lot more money for pork if they want to have pork from mothers who are not chained like prisoners while they are having their babies. It costs a lot more money to raise pork if the farmer lets the mom roll on top of some of the piglets, but it's what she would naturally do.
5. A fast way to feel good is to attack a caller you’re sick of. (Childish but effective.)
I don't know what he says next. He is saying something about how I have strong opinions or something. He is not used to this.
I tell him people don't have enough money to pay 50% more for groceries at Whole Foods. I tell him that group child care for kids under two is very bad for the kids and people should spend their money solving that problem. It's a lot more important than not having food additives.
He says his book tells people to do small steps.
I say, “Do you buy your eggs at Whole Foods?”
“Well, they suck compared to my free range farm eggs.”
“The eggs at Whole Foods are free range.”
“What does that mean? Free range for one day a year? Who regulates the words free range? Free range on sawdust? You can look at my eggs and the eggs you eat and you can see a huge difference in how yellow the yolk is.”
“People need to know what they are eating.”
“You don't even know what you're eating. This is a black hole for spending and it's not appropriate for poor people. You can buy pork at Whole Foods where the moms are chained at birth and the pork could be organic.”
5. Get off the phone as fast as possible.
Then I tell him it's time to go to skateboarding. I tell him that my son gets more out of the money I spend on skateboarding lessons than the money I spend on organic juice with 50% less sugar which he thinks taste terrible, by the way.
The guy says, “Can I send my book to you?”
I can't believe it. I want to tell him that he should have just sent that email to me, instead of wasting my time talking to me about his book. I would have said yes to just an email but now I hate him. I hate that he told me he wants to interview me for his book but he doesn't. He's a lifestyle guy, really. He's telling people how to have a good life. And he's lying to me.
So I say, “Why do you need to pitch your book to me? You have a monopoly in Whole Foods checkout lines. Your book is selling out it's first printing. Why don't you do something more interesting than marketing a book?”
He says, “I want to change the world. Obesity is a huge problem in this country.”
“You're going to solve obesity by telling people to buy free-range eggs?”
“Yes. Education is the key to curbing obesity.”
“You think fat people are too stupid to know that if you pay double for your food you get better food? I think they know that. Try being a single mom with two jobs and four kids and then tell her she has weight problems because she doesn't buy free range eggs.”
He asks, “Well what do you think is the panacea?”
And I say, “Panacea? You are looking for a panacea? There aren't those in this world.”