An Improv Repartee With A Touch Of Prudence: Our Virtues (Series 01)

by Jul 9, 2021Stories To Live By

The following is an extract from a Talk I gave at the UAP-MCB District Chapter’s Built Environment Conference 2020 (Lecture Series 6) on the 2ND of February, Manila, Philippines, with the topic “Business Development Strategies For Architecture Firms: How To Sell Your Design Practice”.

Life is just too short to take everything too seriously and not to laugh along the way. I for one am a huge proponent of infusing razor sharp humour into daily conversations, whether casual or much more work-related. I may have that stern look of stoicism but acquaintances know that I am a high-spirited person and, when in my element, quick at a repartee.

But witty comebacks must also consider the ethics of prudence. Humor can communicate immaturity or can be outright offensive. It can leave an awkward air about the whole situation if unchecked. So, one should govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason, apply moral principles of behavior, and be tactful enough to always serve the common good.

In marketing oneself, an architect – known to be intensive but fun – exercises prudence when dealing with or sizing up a prospective client. But then again a bit of wittiness and humor wouldn’t do harm.

Let me exemplify:-

Aside from the sagacity and shrewdness in marketing for projects, prudence, when dealing with people, is utilizing wisdom of sound judgement to avoid the ‘judgmental attitude’ and therefore making better and favorable decisions.

Way back in 2005, we took-over a residence project which we fondly called the Spanish Revival House. From info gathered it promised to be an interesting project – one for the track record. But what was more intriguing was when we learned that there were 4 previous architects, one after the other, who either left or where asked to leave. The challenge just rose another notch.

Because of that, my doubts about the client’s character were getting the better end of me. But I prayed for wisdom and exercised prudence to be level-headed and make proper judgment of him and the project.

And what better way to realize this but to personally meet up with him and visit his uncompleted house

I met the client on a weekend and upon arrival at site I realized the architectural language was subtly developed though not yet precise. The building shell was already well underway including the swimming pool and fish pond concrete structures.

Not that interesting a project after all, I thought to myself, since it leaves me with minimal leeway for any major revisions, if ever.

For a couple of minutes, and with a snobbish look of expression wiped across his face, this client walked me through the entire project commenting only a few words, more complaints than anything else.

And in a split second, he swiftly turned around, confronted me face to face and threw me a brisk blunt question:-

“Have you ever done a Spanish house before?”

For a second, there was this big lump in my throat for I have never honestly done an authentic Spanish house yet. But my quick mindedness and quirky wit stepped in as I calmly but confidently responded:-

“Mr. Client, I am a Filipino and we have been conquered and ruled by the Spaniards for 300 over years. So I suppose Spanish is in my entire life, in my blood, in the food I eat, the moment I sleep, when I take my bath, even when I shit and even when I die.”

He stared at me blankly for a couple of seconds and replied:-

“See me at my office on Monday.”

The rest is history but I shall be touching on this project again in a later blog.

It sure does require a certain amount of prudence and great courage – the form of every virtue at the testing point – to persevere through tight situations and yet be honest with someone.

And oh that Filipino heritage – shrewdly used as an inherent resource – sure works to my advantage in a foreign land. But let’s save that for still another blog.

OK, I’ll admit, I’ve crossed the line a little by including the ‘sh*t’ word in my repartee. But that’s not the issue here.

Whether it was my prosodic intonation, the syntax of words, or just in itself the nature of a candid indirect response to the polar question, the thing is I didn’t lie, but nor was I truthfully honest about the matter.

Creating a ruse by inventing a project and tending to brag would be immoral while being brutally honest may have peeved the client and place me in a weak status.

But with that candor response I established equality between prospective client and architect; I created a leveled playing field. It was also a test of the client’s funny bone.

As it turns out this particular client was not a difficult person after all, as my ‘judgmental-attitude’ would have dictated. He was considerate, friendly enough, and accommodating to everyone involved in the project including the workers. And once in a while, it was his turn to crack his own repartee and humor. The great thing was, he was very permeable to whatever inimitable ideas and designs I threw at him.

Architect Bart Vista Design

We completed the project well engaged with one another. His eccentric and audacious character and his fastidious attitude towards his unique Spanish house were all too well palpable but they complimented my deepest passion for architecture.

Humor can certainly add new dimensions to your marketing campaign and earn you better results — but only if it’s used appropriately and prudently.

The next Spanish revival house I will be pitching for, I guess there will no longer be the need to emphasize my heritage, let alone my personal hygiene routine, in my sales talk to secure the job.



  1. Chona Pulgar Navarro

    what a beautiful house!

    • Architect Bart B. Vista

      Thank you, Judge! Looking forward to more of your thoughts in my blogs.

  2. Richard smith

    Great way of disarming a difficult client’s defenses and winning him over.



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