A friend of mine taught me a valuable lesson several years ago. He was traveling internationally to Lebanon and Syria and while in London was upgraded to first class for the rest of his trip. What was his secret? It wasn’t anything you can buy — he was just very nice and flattering to the ticket agent. After this, I’ve always joked, flattered, and been extremely nice to every ticket agent who I’ve ever needed help in oftaining the coveted exit row seat. (Aside from United who now charges for it, buggers!)

Guy Kawasaki has a post on the art of sucking down. It’s a great read, but here are some highlights:

  • Understand the dynamic. Like it or not, here’s how the world works: if you want something, you should be nice to the person.
  • Understand their needs. The key word here is empathy. If you can empathize with them, you’ll be much more successful dealing with them.
  • Make them smile. A window occurs in the first thirty seconds of your interaction with Biff. In that brief time, if you can make him smile, you will differentiate yourself from 95% of the orifices that he deals with.
  • Don’t try to buy your way in. But do express your gratitude on the way out.
  • Never complain.
  • Rack up the karmic points.