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My mother is a very bright, competent, entrepreneurial woman.

But, when I was younger, she used to embarrass me in shops by acting all helpless in order to get served more quickly.

She’d stand in the middle of a department store holding the item that she wanted help with in an outstretched hand, and assume an expression of bemused helplessness that would somehow conjur attentive shop assistants out of nowhere.

‘How can you do that to yourself?’ I’d ask.

‘Because it works.’ would be the reply.

I suspect that the same thing is going on when a certain type of client adopts a tone of bemused helplessness when asking why significant increases to the scope of a project can’t be accommodated within the original budget.

Like my mother’s department store persona, the plaintive, faux-innocent insistence on not understanding why it’s not a ‘simple half hour job’ can be hard to resist.

But not for someone with a mum like mine.

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