Poem Day : Buttons and Strings

27 March , 2008


Those of you who’ve known me for a while will know that every so often an idea sweeps me away at full gallop and I get completely side-tracked from whatever I was busy with until I get bored with my new toy or concept.

I am in the grips of just such an animal right now – not sure what to call it or how to describe it exactly. I feel a bit like my own lab-rat if that makes any sense at all? You see this all started with some of the training I received at my new job about a thing called “spontaneous habitual response”. Meaning that thing you do or say that is absolutely stupid and more often than not a lie, because you’ve been trained to do so.

Exhibit A: You set out one fine day to your local appliance store in search of a washing machine. You’ve gone there with the exclusive purpose of buying a washing machine but as soon as a salesman approaches you to try and sell you something “Hi there, can I help?” you fall into the spontaneous habitual response of “No thanks, I’m just looking” – which is of course a lie, you are there to buy a blasted machine. Now if you want to see someone go into a blind panic you should try saying to the little man: “I have come to buy a washing machine – go ahead and sell me one, I’m ready when you are…”. The last time I tried this he got so freaked out that he told me there was no stock, of anything, and asked me to go somewhere else please. I had to go back on another day at be more gentle and coy to actually buy the machine I wanted all along…poor guy.

Anyway, nuff said about machines…but the whole thing has opened my eyes to the possibility that all is not always what it seems, and that I have some sort of behaviour programming that I need to shake (or at least be aware of) in order to not be played everywhere I go according to my programming. I’m doing a lot of reading about this at the moment (there are a gazillion other things that I should really be doing but I can’t help myself, is that programmed in too?).

I guess you could say that I am doing a study in human behaviour, but on myself. I am the mad scientist of my own responses. 😀 Mwuhahahaha!

I came across a book called “In search of excellence” – Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, and even though I’m not very far into the book yet and it is rather old I’ve already come across some interesting studies that have been done on workers and what motivates them. For instance in one productivity study two groups of workers were taken and placed separately under the exact same conditions, doing the exact same type of work with only one difference. The one group was given a button with which they could turn off the aircon. The group with the button performed much better than the group without, even though they never once used the button…

I wonder if I’d need a button to be at my best? I wonder if I’ve already been given a button without realising it? I guess I wonder if I would realise if someone was playing me according to my programming if the button was not a really obvious button, but something a little bit more subtle? Then again…sometimes a button is just a button, right?

You can’t go through life doubting every single response you have – you’d never take your next breath! I may have to stop scrutinising my own responses and use this on someone else in future? 😉

Buttons and Strings



  1. I like the concept of your experiment, but to be honest I’m not sure I can relate to your washing machine example … more often than not I say “I’m just looking” because I want the damn salesperson to just leave me alone and not follow me around like a wounded puppy while I find what I actually want. I find Sales People (like most people in the service industry – and yes, this is a generalisation here) to be more of a hindrance than a help. Especially when you actually do require their assistance. Ever tried asking someone which item in their store they recommend … every found it to not be the most expensive?

    Hmmm, clearly discussing service brings out the cynicism in me … but I’m sure I’m not the only one 🙂 Isn’t it sad that when you actually get good service it’s such a refreshing sensation. Oh, if that were only the norm!

  2. awesome post- and you are so right. like being offered something and saying “no thanks”. or someone asking how you are and you say “fine thanx and you”. nor like not posing for a photograph!!! forkitall!!!
    love your work, looking forward to hearing more on this…

  3. Hahaha…phillygirl, I know exactly what you mean. I did buying on a professional level for 7 years, and I just realised now how badly trained most of the sales-persons were that had to put up with me.

    angel, 😆 something tells me there is more to this response than meets the eye (or the camera?). I want to write a lot more about this topic and what I’ve been learning, but unfortunately I have to be quite careful about exactly how much I say about the work related training. So, I’ll probably stick more to what I figure out on my own after the training, even if that’s what inspired me to do so – that should be safe(r), right?

  4. Hun, I know all too well that ‘on the verge of’ feeling you have… and I am in the same sorta place right now as well, so I really appreciate your poem today!

    P.S. I am definitely going to be there at the blog awards bash on Wednesday, look forward to a shooter (ok, a glass of wine, or whatever!) and a chat with you girl! 🙂

  5. Whoohooo! That is great news Rox :-D, and a very wise decision I think. I’ll be there (but I might be just a tiny bit late) and I look forward to a chat and a drink with you too.

  6. Hey Louisa =)
    Great post…. made me go, “hmmmmmmMMmmmmm”. I like going “hmmmmmMMMmmmmmm” – so, that’s a good thing. =) I think, most of us like to have some control – but, your point about only having the illusion of control is a good one… and rather unsettling.

    If someone gives me a shiny red button – I tend to think I’d probably push it… even if I didn’t need it… (I’m a bit trigger happy like that normally, but even MORE so after reading this! lol)… and Dammit… that button better DO something or heads are gonna roll!

  7. Samanthamj, I hear you loud and clear! 😉

    When I’m given a button that doesn’t mean I will press it though, so don’t give me the button and EXPECT me to press it just cause you gave it to me either…I like the element of surprise. You never know when it’s going to happen, or even if it will happen at all.

    Maybe I’m just a little bit too suspicious for my own good? When presented with a new button I like to take a moment to make sure if there is a string attached to it or not before I accept it. 😉

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