I am very, very sorry that I haven’t posted for so long and thank you for your patience. I had a leaky pipe event (more of a gusher, actually), and believe it or not, the people skills I teach–persuasion, consensus and communication–helped me handle it, and learn from it.

There was a complete pipe break in the apartment above mine, apparently during the night or very early morning hours. I was awakened before 7:00 AM by the smoke detectors, yet I didn’t see or smell any smoke, but rather, water coming through the smoke detectors, as well as light fixtures and many other places in the wall and ceiling.

I stepped outside my front door to escape the alarm noise while phoning the management. There I saw water also leaking out the bottoms of the exterior walls and making puddles in the breezeway. The water was running down between interior and exterior walls as well as the ceiling. I later found out that the water had been two inches deep in the upstairs apartment.

I lived in a hotel for over three weeks while my ceiling and walls were cut open and noisy machines dried things out, also blowing dust and sheetrock grit all around. The picture shows how they stuffed a lot of things into the dry end of one room to work on the wet end. Next, workers repaired the apartment itself. Finally, a professional cleaning company cleaned my personal property.

Believe it or not, my people skills helped me handle the leaky pipe event, and in some ways, it turned out to be a positive experience.

Those who have taken any of my training classes or read my books know that a key to building consensus is noticing things that might satisfy the interests of two parties seeking consensus. Let’s say Sal wants to sell a boat for $30,000. Chris can’t afford to pay that amount. But Chris happens to be a roofer, and notices that Sal could use a new roof. Perhaps they could agree on partial payment in kind.

Once you get into the habit of noticing such resources, it becomes a habit. You notice things you can put to good use in all sorts of situations that don’t even involve any other person. You notice more things that simply put a smile on your face or a spring in your step. During the time I was handling my pipe event, I found myself automatically doing this, and the good things I noticed helped my state of mind and my mood at a challenging time.

For example, I’d been meaning to check out a certain hotel as a potential place for out of town visitors, or perhaps even a venue for training courses. When I realized that I could not live in my apartment while the work was being done, the first place I phoned was that hotel. I learned that it is less than a year old and 100% smoke free and pet free— the perfect clean place to recuperate from the sheet rock grit and other dust that had been blowing around my home.

They gave me a wonderful extended-stay rate, almost half the usual rate for the room. Knowing my circumstances, the manager gave me an exceptionally large room. At first I thought it a lot of wasted space for one person, but I later found that this roominess kept me from feeling cooped up, as I have often felt in other hotels. It felt as if I had an efficiency apartment, complete with a microwave, small refrigerator and a little shelf space. They served a free breakfast buffet – not just continental but a hot, cooked breakfast. The staff treated me like family, the bed was one of the best I’ve ever slept in, and, yes, it’s a good venue for classes in itself, but also just a block away from another venue that rents classrooms.

I noticed and took advantage of opportunities for pleasant interactions with other people, too. One morning at breakfast, I saw a man holding a baby on his hip trying to serve himself from the buffet. I knew the buffet was a two-handed job. The hinged covers of the warming pans did not always stay open when I raised them. I would use my plate to keep the cover open with one hand while putting food onto the plate with my other hand. I enjoyed holding the happy, contented little girl. Her older brother walked up to me and said, “She’s so cute, isn’t she?” I told him, “Yes, and so are you. What’s your sister’s name?” What a charming older sibling, reacting to a baby with enthusiasm, rather than Jealousy. The warm fuzzy feeling lasted all day.

In future parts of this Broken Pipes and People Skills series, I’ll tell you about the use of the skills in persuasion efforts between two parties.

Meanwhile, practice keeping your eyes and ears open for positive things you can incorporate into your life. Not only will you find unexpected resources, but the process itself will help you feel positive. And of course, it’s good practice for uncovering interests in your persuasive endeavors with others.