That more or less sums up my philosophy in this world. I allow the other person to determine their treatment from me, but everyone starts off on a neutral level. No negative opinion, and no positive one either.
I do not give the benefit of the doubt, not ever, and I don’t recommend anyone else to do so either. No one has earned that from you, and you certainly haven’t earned it from them. Everyone starts off on the same ground, and things will progress from there. People have a habit of telling you about them, even if they don’t mean to. They may treat you very well, but be snide to a person in the service industry for instance, or speak poorly about a coworker.
These of course are signs that the person is probably not worth my time unless they happen to be the specific gatekeeper to something that I want, or someone i have no choice but to deal with, such as work and in that case, I will tolerate them to the best of my ability, assuming that they are just as capable of being snide with me, or speaking poorly about me when I am not around.
There are two ways that I engage with the world. The masked way, and the real way, and both have very different strategies because they have very different desired outcomes. This will be broken up into two different posts. The first one dealing with the mask, and learning how to get people to give you what you want in life, and the other will be how I really am.
The masked version is about obtaining the best version of my life possible, and people all around me are the ones that can make or break that reality. If I am dreadful to them (not that I am inclined to be anyway), they will be sure to put me in the “outside” category. That’s not where I want to be, I want to be in the “inside”
category, as most people do. How do I manage to get people to want to give me what I want?
So glad you asked.
Human interaction is tricky business, regardless of what arena you are in. Be it your family, your friends, your coworkers, or someone you have to deal with in a government office who has not had a very good day. Every interaction can be turned to your favor however, and believe it or not, the people that are most grumpy, are the ones that are easiest to get on your side most of the time.
Have you ever consider why that person is grumpy when you call customer service for some reason? It’s because they have been on the phone for seven hours and and fifty five minutes, the last person yelled at them for forty five minutes about something that they, as the customer service rep, can’t do a thing about, because it is not their fault that the customer’s computer overheated and died because the guy never took off the shrink wrap, they are about to be able to clock out, and then you called.
They don’t want to talk to you. They want to go get Advil for their screaming headache, from that screaming idiot with the shrink wrapped computer. Whatever you want, it’s probably going to put them on overtime, and that doesn’t make their boss happy, and you might be just as bad as the guy who thought keeping dust out of his computer was more important that it not getting to roughly the temperature of Hell on a hot day.
How can you make this work for you?
Treat them almost like they are the customer that you are going to give gold star service to. I don’t care how annoyed you are about whatever you are calling about, this person has nothing to do with it, and they aren’t going to be real thrilled to hear a snippy attitude. Instead, be charming. After they greet you, and introduce themselves (Linda for this example) as their script dictates, smile. Smile, because you can hear a smile through the phone, and respond with:
”Hello Linda, how are you today?”
This throws them off guard a bit, and usually you will hear a bit of a hesitation before they respond. You have already tipped the scale of balance just the slightest bit. You aren’t a raging maniac, and that is at least a relief to them. You have also put them slightly off balance, and that bodes well for you, because it makes them have to reconsider their mental position.
Next they will ask you your problem. Along every step of the way, your job is to be as patient, and kind as possible, with a bright tone in your voice. Not too chipper, because frankly that’s annoying, but enough that you start to hear the stress iron out of their voice a bit.
Next, ask them about themselves a bit. If you are good at picking up what region of the country, or world they are from and you know a little bit about it, see if it fits into the conversation. It makes them feel like they are conversing with you on a more relatable level. Another great thing to use is our current global catastrophe of the pandemic. Ask them if they, and their families, have been holding up well, and if they have, be happy for them. If they haven’t, be considerate of their trials.
Every part of this melts the walls, and makes them want to help you. Yes, it is their job to do so, but when they want to help you, you would be amazed at some of the things that they can do for you, and will happily do for you. If they need to place you on hold, accept with cheerful grace. If they need to transfer you to another department, thank them, and tell them to do something nice for themselves when they get off work. Keep in mind, some of these calls are monitored, and the person monitoring is another gatekeeper, as they are usually a supervisor. When an employee wants to go above and beyond for you, they are often going to have to clear that with someone. If that person has been listening, and are also charmed by you, they do even more that the CSR was going to.
This is just one example of a thousand I could give you. Be genuine in your sounds, not cheesy, or obnoxious. People want to be heard, and they want to feel like what they are doing for you has value. They don’t want to be treated like a barrier to your happiness, but they are, all the time. You can take the frustrations of your day out on someone that you don’t know, and it might feel good in that moment, but the long and the short of it is, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
I have used this technique everywhere, and it has netted me free upgrades on flights, hotels, free meals, complementary wine, free items, upgraded internet services, access to things most people can’t even imagine are possible. I get these things because people want to help me.
If it is a restaurant, over time, and several visits, I can get the entire staff to argue about who gets me in their section (healthy tipping certainly helps on this one as well), I can get the chef to create amazing dishes without even having to ask. All I have to do is speak to them, entertain them, delight them, make them feel good, and (and this one I cannot stress enough) never be demanding.
I am the person that they can get to last when they are in the weeds, and I will never be annoyed, I will always be kind and appreciative.
I am the person that tries to be sure to ask for everything all at the same time so they aren’t running back and forth to the kitchen fetching a side of this and extra that.
I make sure that if something is wrong with a meal at the table that it is handled as it should be: as a mistake that can be remedied but is no one’s fault.
I never seat myself at an unbussed table—or anywhere, for that matter. I respect the host. That person has a job, and I let them do it.
I greet them as kindly as they do me. I never ignore their greeting, talking over them, as though they said nothing. I also don’t cut them off.
I don’t make the corny joke
“Hello, I’m Susan. I’ll be your waitress this evening.”
“Hello, Susan, I’m Athena. I’ll be your customer this evening.”
Seriously, stop this. They have heard it twenty times that day alone, and it isn’t funny. Just stop.
I don’t ask for drinks made “strong.” I order a double if that’s what I want, and I anticipate paying for it.
I don’t try to order off-menu.
I don’t table camp, though I have been asked to do so when the server is slammed and doesn’t want the table turned over.
I don’t assume that a server is flirting with me or my SO. They work for their money. Being nice is part of the job.
I don’t have phone conversations while the server is trying to do their job at my table. In fact, I stay off my phone during dinner.
I don’t come in to eat five minutes before they close. The latest I will come is forty-five minutes before closing unless I am picking up food to go.
I don’t tell them that I know the owner, even if I do. This attempt at special treatment is idiotic.
I tip—and generously. People seem to not understand that there is a tipped wage in this country that is $2.13 an hour. Let’s say you choose not to tip, but they have tip pools. That server still has to tip out the bartender, busser, and possible food runner. You choose not to tip, you are forcing them to PAY to wait on you.
I do not snap my fingers to get their attention, yell out, “Hey!” or make the check sign in the air. It is classless in the States, though I know it is common in other countries.
I don’t try to send back a plate because I don’t like it. If there is something wrong with it, as in wrong with the food or for instance, I was given moldy fruit, that I will send back and opt not to order anything else. Not liking it is on me. I know how to read and made my own choice. Now I can have it boxed up, pay for it like an adult, and give it to someone that might want it when I get home.
I have had exceptional experiences at restaurants, and the front of house staff has a great deal to do with this. I also have enormous respect for those killing it on the line. If you have never been in a professional kitchen, it is hot, noisy, busy, dangerous, interesting, compelling, and like watching a well-oiled machine.
I can imagine some people think that this is a long list of behavior modifications that they may not be inclined to undertake, so what does this net me? New Years Eve, a special event, booked out months in advance with easily a $100.00 door cover for the number of people in my party. We had no reservations, we didn’t call ahead, we appeared, immediately noticed through the throng of people, taken inside past line, immediately seated, and toasted the New Year in on complementary wine with the entire staff after one incredible meal.
All from knowing how to treat people. People want to help you, they just don’t know that they do. You have to tell them, subtly, kindly, and with grace and charm. In phone calls with customer service, it is a shorter relationship, and it has to be navigated much more quickly than that of the restaurant. When it is long term, you simply have to know what your goal is, and prepare for it accordingly. Do you think a chef wants to talk to me if I know nothing about food? Do you think a wine merchant will insist that I take a bottle of his newest red to take home and review for him, if I know nothing about wine?
No. All of these things require you to engage with the people where they are. If that means that you cognitively understand what it is to work customer service, even if you have never done it before and have no working understanding, you must do that. You need to be aware of the gears in the machine, so you can communicate to them that you are the grease, not gunk.
The world can be hard. The world can be amazing. A large part of how it treats you, is how you treat those around you. This is pure manipulation. Don’t think that it is anything else, but it is mutually beneficial manipulation. You made their day better, and now they wish to return the favor.
Treat me well, and I will treat you better. Treat me poorly, and I will treat you worse.