Getting What Makes You Happy
Those that know me accuse me (accurately I might add) of being overly ‘direct’. In my defense, I believe I seek to reduce communication to it’s most straightforward and effective elements. I spend a lot of time thinking about words and language and how both help others articulate their perspective as well as express my own.
As a sales professional, I have been in the persuasion business long enough to know that convincing someone without allowing them the time and space to fully digest their decision is folly. I can steamroll any concern to get a sale but in the long run, this will contribute to dissatisfaction, customer attrition or worse.
This post is not really about a selling technique…it’s about how you can get more of what you want in life. I’ll begin with a story:
Several years ago, my family headed out to dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants which featured authentic food (no Tex-Mex), down to earth staff (a surprising rarity in Boulder, Colorado), and a huge outdoor patio which featured live salsa music throughout the summer. Unfortunately, it was winter which relegated us to the small (tiny) inside dining room.
The place was typically quiet in the ‘off season’ and we walked in to find 4 tables (out of 8 total) empty. Immediately after being seated and shortly after digging in to the chips and homemade salsa, I noticed three more parties walk in and get seated.
Knowing the size of the kitchen (10×10) and the staff (a single cook/dishwasher) I let my family know they had better be ready to order quickly and tried to get the attention of the server. For whatever reason, all three tables seated after us received attention and placed their orders before ours.
Hmmm…This may take awhile…
For my mind, there are not too many situations that can’t be improved with good company and a tasty margarita (or margaritas). As such, this situation represented a mild hiccup at most. I could see my spouse (at the time) did not share my positive outlook.
The dinner rush probably added 45 minutes (or 3.5 margaritas) to our dining experience. When the food showed up, we had a second issue… My wife’s meal was wrong and included some ingredients we had requested be removed due to allergies or something. Another 15 minutes passed before the correct meal appeared.
My wife ate in subdued but obvious rage. Throughout her meal, she speculated and hypothesized about the various ways I needed to express displeasure with the waitress, the manager, the owner and anyone else who would listen.
When the moment arrived for the waitress to ask if we were ready for the check, my response was simple and delivered without any undue inflection: “Yes we are ready for the check please. I’d like you to credit my wife’s meal, the kids’ dessert, and 3 of the margaritas.“
The waitress stood silent and I could practically see the wheels of her brain in motion trying to process the information. After about 30 seconds, she replied: “I should be able to take care of that but my manager may want to speak with you.” She returned with our fully adjusted bill a few minutes later, apologized for the less than stellar service, we paid, and left.
What happened here was simple: rather than working myself into a froth and berating the waitress with a recounting of everything that went WRONG; I presented her with a simple request representing what I believed would make the situation RIGHT for me. In doing so, I created an opportunity for her to accomplish something…to take an action I had already confirmed would make me happy.
How does this compare to the usual scenario? Guests complain or yell at the server. The server feels badly. The server relays the complaint to the manager who may wander over and hear the guests re-tell their story of woe, at which point the manager will likely provide an apology or some excuse and then guess at a suitable remedy for the guests’ trouble. In some cases the guest will negotiate the remedy and they might leave happy or never return.
What a waste of time and energy.
Happiness (or the avoidance of unhappiness) requires you to take responsibility for your perception of the problem AND the resolution required to effect a solution.
If there is NOTHING that could possibly happen to rectify the situation, just walk away and never come back.
Otherwise, ask yourself: “What needs to happen here to make me happy?” Not “What do I deserve?” or are “What am I entitled to?” but what will allow me to exit this situation with a smile? Want a free meal? Ask for it! Want $1,000 for your pain and suffering? You are being silly, but I say ask for it!
The point is this: blame is useless and does nothing to identify a solution. Justifying your ‘ask’ with a preamble of complaints adds no value and puts you in a worse mood.
The waitress knew our service was terrible. The manager was not surprised by feedback indicating the night was a disaster. Reminding them of this or rubbing their noses in it simply invites resistance and defensive behavior. If the waitress or manager had wanted to discuss WHY I felt I deserved some compensation I would have been happy to have that conversation. They could have opted to deny my request (or try and negotiate it down). At any point, I could have opted to argue or pay and never return. The bottom line is this: Owning the path to your happiness does not limit any of your future options (including getting into a shouting match should you so desire).
It does tend to reduce your overall stress in any situation as well as offer the high probability that you will get what you already have determined makes this a win.