Monday, May 1, 2017

A Young Homeless Man's Death in Riverside Park Leaves a Void; 'I Wish I Knew His Name'

The bench near Pier I where a young homeless man would often sit, until he vanished one day.
He was always there. The young homeless man in the maroon hoodie, always sitting bolt upright on a Riverside Park bench – sometimes at 75th Street, other times near Pier 1 CafĂ© at 70th – his big canvas rucksack near.
He said almost nothing. No requests for money or food. No murmurs to himself or invisible interrogators. His gaze seemed steady, as did his strong walk – all six-plus feet and 200 pounds of him, occasionally spotted on Broadway peeking into garbage cans or picking up a free Metro paper to read.
He had neighbors who wondered and worried about him. Food, clothes, magazines and money would be placed within his reach. After several such interactions, he might turn toward his visitor, meet their eyes and give a faint, quick smile. But he left it at that.
For going on four years, he was always there. Until he wasn’t.
Billy the Birdman on a bench at 75th Street favored by the man
“It took me weeks to find out what happened to him,” says Billy the Birdman, another daily presence at the park, an avid hawk-spotter who lives nearby on 76th Street. “I knew him better than anyone, saw him every day for years, but I never got him to engage past saying ‘yes, no or thank you.’ And yet I feel like I really lost somebody.”
According to Billy, park workers told him that the man in the maroon hoodie had been found dead several weeks ago in a fenced off area controlled by Amtrak under the West Side Highway near 71st Street, steps from the Riverside Park South Dog Run.
I asked NYPD and the Parks Department for verification. Though we cannot be certain it was the maroon hoodie man, NYPD confirmed that on the morning of March 9th an “unidentified male in his 30s” was found there, “seated on the ground, unconscious and unresponsive.” EMS responded and pronounced him dead on the scene. “The medical examiner will determine the cause of death. There are no arrests and the investigation is ongoing.”
The Office of Chief Medical Examiner told me that, “The person still has not been identified yet. And the cause and manner of death are still pending.”
Billy thinks the man he called ‘the homeless kid’ was more like 25 years old, but it was difficult to discern any specifics about him. He seemed healthy and strong. He had a full head of reasonably neat, short, wavy black hair, a medium complexion and features that were not easily categorized. Was he of Samoan or North African or Caribbean descent?
“He had no accent when he said any of the three words he would say,” recalls Billy. “I wish I knew his name. I want to say a prayer for him.”
Billy’s not the only one. WSR heard from several readers asking if we could find out about the man. Said one, “We’re all part of the life of the park.”
Whoever he was, he was likely not one of the 62,692 homeless people in NYC shelters each night. And if he was sleeping tucked up under the highway, the City likely didn’t count him in its annual HOPE census of street homeless people.
But to those who saw him every day, he did count.
First published April 5, 2017 in West Side Rag

Altercasting: The Best Persuasion Technique You've Never Heard Of

As an astute businessperson, you’re always up on the most powerful ways to persuade people to act in their best interests (and yours). So, of course, altercasting is among your top techniques.
Wait. What’s altercasting? Why don’t I know about this? I need to know about this! Tell me more.
You’ve just been altercasted, friend.
I’ve persuaded you to read this article using altercasting.

Altercasting is a persuasion technique in which one person characterizes another as a certain kind of person – casts them in a role – and then gives them the opportunity to live up to that role by taking a desired action.

I justifiably cast you, dear reader, as a shrewd entrepreneur who’s always learning the best ways to improve your results. You agreed with this characterization. It’s who you are. It’s how you want to perceive yourself and how you want to be seen.
Then I offered up an assumption:  that you already know about and use altercasting.
This caused a pang of cognitive dissonance. You are a smart entrepreneur. But you didn’t quite know about altercasting. So you acted immediately to bring this situation into alignment.  You’re learning about a technique that many successful people do know about and use daily.

Altercasting works. But why?

Most people want to live up to others’ expectations. Especially when someone shares admiration for one’s talents, character and industriousness. We don’t want to let anyone down, including ourselves.
Altercasting makes use of this natural tendency, this need for consistency between who we perceive ourselves to be, and our actions.
Here’s how to use altercasting as a positive force in your business.

Altercasting to Win New Clients
Think about what’s most important to your prospect’s identity – what role would be most appealing? How could your business feed that part of his/her ego?
A few common self-perceptions and ways to align your pitch:
  • Bravest, most innovative, always pioneering – you’d want to be the first to experience our new way of doing XYZ
  • Uncompromising when it comes to quality, performance – you can see how our product clearly outpaces the competition across every metric, you need not compromise
  • Leader, achiever, avid competitor – you aren’t going to wait around for everyone else to get a clue, you’re willing to move ahead and take advantage of what our XYZ can do for your enterprise

Remember, pacing and structure matter when altercasting.

You must first let your prospect know that you are interested in doing business with them precisely because they are this kind of person. Then you can position your offering in alignment with that self-perception.
This isn’t about blanket flattery or fawning. It’s about understanding your prospect at his/her core, authentically recognizing that identity and setting up a situation where doing business with you can only enhance their performance of that positive role.

Altercasting to Motivate Your Team
You, as their leader, have an obligation to cast your employees in roles that encourage them to aim high and act accordingly.
Imagine the lift in their spirits when you recognize that glimmer of potential just waiting for an opportunity to shine.
The key word to get them to rise to the occasion? Willing.
Studies have shown massive increases in compliance when people are asked to be willing to live up to an altercasted role…
  • Dave, your presos and emails are always so on-point and clear. Beyond being our project manager, you’re also a gifted writer. Would you be willing to take a crack at this e-newsletter?
  • Miranda, you’re our go-to foodie, always adventuring into new neighborhoods. Would you be willing to partner with our real estate agent to evaluate locations for our next retail shop?
  • Sally, I saw how you took charge of the chaos last week when Tom fell ill. I need a leader like you to train the new clerks before launch. Would you be willing to get everyone properly onboarded?

Altercasting can help to effectively delegate tasks, expand someone’s responsibilities, renew enthusiasm for the overall mission, show appreciation for as-yet underutilized talents and get more done with greater satisfaction for all parties.

You know a valuable strategy when you see it. Surely altercasting is now part of your persuasive repertoire.
Right? ;)

First published for Veromo