“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!”
Confucius said: “Life is basically simple, but we insist on complicating it.”
I have personally found this to be most accurate when it comes to leadership and influence.
I was eating dinner at the local supper club while having a fabulous chat with Suzy who seemed to be one of the most outgoing and friendly waitresses a person could ever ask for.
She was bright, fun, and well versed in the art of making suggestions that highlighted the restaurant’s specialties.
“Suzy, I really appreciate you.” I said as she had just replaced my soda before the one I was working on was even half-empty.
“It’s no problem sir! I love what I do!” she responded with a friendly smile and then asked if I needed anything else.
A few minutes later, as I was turning the page of the book I was reading, I overheard the customer at the next table say in a loud and extremely rude voice: “Listen Miss, I know how to read a menu!!”
I looked up to witness Suzy’s head snap back in disbelief, and then watched as she scurried away to the back room.
I shrugged my shoulders and continued to read. As I was finishing the chapter I was reading, Suzy walked up to the table with my dessert. As I started to thank her, the rude customer at the next table blurted out very sharply in our direction: “MISS, I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR MY DRINK ORDER FOR TEN MINUTES!!”
Suzy froze. Her face turned bright red and her eyes flared at me. She was obviously caught off guard and I felt she was about to react to the customer’s negative energy. As a customer service professional myself, I know firsthand that REACTION ALWAYS LEADS TO REGRET.
I quickly put my hand on Suzy’s wrist and smiled at her as if to say: “Don’t let her get to you.”
A number of thoughts quickly popped into my head as to what I might say to the lady on Suzy’s behalf.
Instead, I looked at Suzy really really hard and said very loudly and very firmly: “YOU KNOW SUZY, YOU ARE ONE OF THE BEST WAITRESSES I’VE EVER HAD!”
I paused for a moment and then I continued as I brought my tone down a level or two: “I was wondering if you could help me with something. I am in customer service myself and I was wondering if you could give me some pointers on how to handle customers who treat you disrespectfully.”
Suzy looked at me and her eyes lit up. She said straight-forwardly, as if it were second nature, “You just have to realize that rude people are usually insecure or hurting in some way. You just have to serve them as best you can, and refuse to take what they do or say personally.”
I thought that was brilliant, and of course I chimed in: “It’s really too bad. I’ve personally always found that most people make the mistake of thinking that good service is something you get by demanding it. Don’t you think the best way to get good service is to DESERVE it?”
“Oh yes of course.” she agreed. “I ALWAYS GIVE MY BEST EFFORT TO THOSE WHO TREAT ME KINDLY AND USE WORDS LIKE PLEASE AND THANK YOU.”
With that, she took my dinner dishes and headed back to get the lady her drinks.
In case you are wondering, no, the lady at the next table did not take the hint and suddenly turn into Cinderella.
But, I think Suzy and I each came away with a new perspective.
Let’s face it, the world is full of people who are negative influencers.
The key to thinking like successful people think is to make the decision to maintain our character and integrity regardless of the actions of others.
When someone begins a sentence rudely, or uses a condescending tone, we can take the high road and feel sorry for them, look past their insecurities, and strengthen our own character by rising above their negativity.
When they use sentences that begin with phrases such as: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…”, “Well, if you want my opinion…”, or the ever popular “What I would have done if I were you is…” we can laugh and think to ourselves: “Might I suggest that you visit the video store and check out ‘Bambi’?”
I like the way comedian Bill Murray said it: “Don’t take this the wrong way… has a zero percent success rate.”
Life is simple.
Be nice, treat people kindly, and always respond instead of reacting.
It’s highly possible that everything I ever really needed to know, I learned from Thumper when I was 10 years old 🙂