An interesting thing happened at lunch today. A group of six of us went out to a crowded lunch spot where you order at the counter and seat yourself. Naturally we were looking for a table where we could all sit together.
In the middle of the room was just the thing – a table for six. Unfortunately it was occupied by a couple. Right away, several in our party began to complain, some rather bitterly. “I hate when people do that!”, “That’s so selfish!” “How rude – there’s a table for two right over there!”
Walking in last I suggested we ask if they’d be willing to move. “You can if you want”, one complainer said, as she went to move three 2-person tables together to seat us.
Maybe I’m a little dense, but it didn’t make sense to me not to ask. I don’t like to settle for complaining about people. I like to give them a chance to make things right so I don’t have to complain.
So while the others continued to grumble, I walked up to the two. In my most respectful, apologetic tone, I asked if they wouldn’t mind moving to the table for two so my party of six could sit together.
You’ll never guess what they said to me.
Just like that. Couldn’t have been easier. But for the other 5 in my party it was out of the question. They could not bring themselves to ask. Instead they would do more work and complain about it, but they wouldn’t ask for the simplest solution for everyone.
I know there’s a bit of social risk here, but what would you do in this situation? Would you speak up, take a shot, risk rejection and maybe offend someone? Or would you take the easy way out and reserve the right to complain?
A true Manic Impressive will see this as an opportunity. A chance to use interpersonal skill to influence someone and win something for the team. Assertiveness is one of our core skills. So is charm. Together they beat complaining almost every time.
Assertiveness + Charm = Influence
Two nights ago my wife and I arrived at our hotel late in the evening. We checked in, rode up the elevator and unlocked our room. It reeked. We’d paid for a non-smoking room and this was not it.
It was late, the hotel was sold out and we were tired. But if we’d stayed we would have been miserable and we knew it.
I kept my cool and confronted the hotel staff. They had nothing else. I called the company we used to book the hotel and made my case for a refund. Meanwhile I searched online for another room. There were a few minutes of intense negotiation, and then it was done. Refunds were not allowed. But we got one anyway and were on our way to a new hotel.
The next morning we woke up in a clean, comfortable room. Had we stayed in the original hotel we would have been miserable, with lots to complain about. Instead we had a leisurely breakfast and enjoyed the morning. No need to pack in a hurry and leave. No need to complain. All because of influence skills.
So please, take a moment. Think of the interactions you’ve complained about this month. With your phone company, a contractor, an employee, boss, or customer. Did you speak up and ask for what you wanted? Or did you walk away and complain?
Here’s your homework. For every time you didn’t assert yourself, you need to be brave and bold this month. Speak up. Air your grievance. Write a letter. Ask for compensation. Apply influence.
From now on, no more complaining. Just stories of how we got others to do right by us. Be Manic Impressive and state your case, then come in here and share your victory with us. Brag as much as you can. Teach us a few new moves.
Because I promise you. It feels much better to be assertive than it does to complain. And it makes things better for everyone…