By Kathy Hellkamp
My father was the ultimate salesman who had never met a person he didn’t like. In my 50 years of knowing him, I don’t ever remember him complaining about someone or being critical in any way. One evening we went out to a local restaurant in a small Wisconsin town. The place was moderately busy and we were seated at a table with Judy as our waitress. You could tell right away that Judy had not had a good night so far. She flung the menus at us and asked us briskly for a drink order. After she slammed the glasses down in front of us, she said, “What do you want?” I ordered a steak and baked potato and she got everyone else’s order also. When she brought my meal, I found that the meat was so grisly that my steak knife wouldn’t even cut through it. I flagged Judy down and asked if I could get a new steak because this one was too tough to even chew. She said,” That’s too bad but you got what you ordered!” Nothing I said could convince her that the steak was not edible. So I ate my baked potato and left the steak on the plate. When the bill came, I told my dad, “Don’t tip Judy. She was so rude to me!” He didn’t say anything but I noticed when we got up from the table that he had left a large tip. I was very frustrated but as I started thinking about the situation and about my dad’s success in sales, I came to see the value in what he had done.
- Good manners- This is an area I see that many people are really deficient in today. Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and avoiding vulgarities seems foreign to many but these simple things go a long way to attract people to you. To react well with people, you have to be aware of their body language. It was apparent as soon as we sat down that Judy was having a difficult day. Even though as a waitress she probably shouldn’t have made that noticeable to us, we needed to react sympathetically.
- Patience- In our hurry-up world, we sometimes ask too much of people. My father-in-law has always been impatient. Whether it was sitting at a traffic light or waiting in line at a store, he always was tapping his foot and saying, “How long is this going to take?” Now retired, with plenty of time on his hands, he has not stopped being exasperated by how long things take to get done. It always puts people on edge who are around him and does not make it pleasant to be in his company.
- Encouragement- It is natural for most of us in our conversations to try to have our focus be on ourselves. We all love to talk about our interests, our family, our accomplishments. But that is no way to get another person interested in speaking with us. Whenever possible, especially early on in a conversation, try to find something to compliment the individual on. Make sure it is a sincere, thoughtful comment and they will think you are a great conversationalist! In my restaurant situation, I knew that Judy was stressed outl Therefore I should have shown her some sympathy and compassion and tried to make her day better by asking her about herself or complimenting her.
- Let people know that you need them- I worked in a Family Practice office for many years. I had a new medical assistant working with me and at first she never anticipated my needs for dealing with my clients. As time went on and I guided her in ways that we could be more efficient, see more clients and do a more thorough job, she got excited about being teamed up with me. She got so good at her job that I was really able to do mine much better and I really couldn’t get along well without her. I thanked her daily for making my job easier and making us an awesome team.
- Give others a reputation to live up to- When my son was 11, he begged and pleaded for two months to be able to take violin lessons. I was hesitant because he was already taking piano lessons and needed a lot of encouragement to practice regularly. I finally acquiesced and set him up with a professional concert violinist for lessons. The violin is a very difficult instrument to play. As years rolled on, he would become despondent about the slow progress he was making in mastering it. His teacher and I constantly told him what great progress he was making and told him that he was a natural born musician. I must admit that those statements we made were total lies. His playing was screechy and off tune often and it was only because of a mother’s love that I could sit and listen to him for any length of time! After four years, he quit violin and picked up an old guitar we had sitting around. In two months, he was playing so well that he could just listen to a song on the radio and pick it out on his guitar. Now he plays in front of friends and they are all amazed at his proficiency. I know this is due to the hard discipline he needed to have for his four years of violin that made the transition to guitar super easy. It was also due to giving him that notion that playing music was easy for him.
Dealing with people, especially difficult or tiresome individuals, is a constant part of life. In order to be successful in connecting with people, follow the five skills above and you will see all your relationships improve.