Do you ever fail to get picked for cool work or top jobs? Maybe it’s because your Use Cost is too high. This often gets wrapped up in euphemisms like ‘people skills’ or ‘emotional intelligence,’ but basically it means that you’re hard work.
The (other) café scene I like in When Harry Met Sally is when Harry explains to Sally about being ‘high maintenance’ because she is so particular about everything. That’s you. And it’s not personal, you’re probably great, and well worth the investment, but you wear people out. And they’re already exhausted, so why should they go the extra mile for you?
This is what I am learning from the work I am doing with leaders at the moment about how they can husband their meagre energy. We know leaders sleep badly, and have cognitive overload, so they aren’t blessed with a lot of bandwidth for effortful people. And being patient with high-maintenance people saps energy. It’s the thing they consistently name as their worst mood-sucker. So, if you want to get used more, reduce your use cost.
This is a painful process to start, because it requires you to solicit detailed negative feedback. So approach a best friend or trusted colleague first, and ask them if they have scripts in their head when you talk to them. If they do, that’s their executive function coaching them through, which means they are actively controlling their response to you. This depletes their energy and will-power, so they won’t be able to keep it up for sustained periods of time without losing it with you, or losing you.
Of course, if they love you they will already have decided you are worth the effort. But what you learn from them may help you discern why others don’t have the staying power that they do. I’m not saying you’re not worth every cent of extra effort you demand from those around you. But if you want to catch the eye of a tired leader, be an energy booster, not an energy drainer. Remember, in physics, inertia is about conserving energy. So any premium you demand needs to be well worth it.