Why do some of us seem to have the attitude that certain individuals were born to serve while others were born to be served? It's been my experience that those who've worked in a service capacity tend to have compassion and generosity for those who are serving them. For example, my hairdresser friends are often the biggest tippers in restaurants. For those who don't acknowledge treat service people or treat them as if they're invisible, it's often a matter of ignorance or a lack of consciousness—or a bad habit.
Well, now that you're aware of it, it's time to go overboard and make up for all the times you ignored the wonderful, humble, talented individuals who've made your life easier through their service. This holiday season, while you're out shopping and running around, why not go out of your way to say hello to the hotel cleaning person, the flight attendant, the restaurant busperson, the hotel clerk, the garbage collector, the gardener….Who have I left out here, and who have you left out over the years?
A wonderful storyteller by the name of C. W. Metcalf told of a man in the airport who was verbally abusing an airline ticketing agent. The traveler had missed his flight due to mechanical difficulties and was being loud, aggressive, and just plain mean to the poor ticketing agent, who obviously had no control over the plane's condition. Metcalf went up to the abusive man and asked, "Can I have your autograph?" When the man, puzzled, asked, "Why do you want my autograph?" Metcalf responded, "Because I've never met the center of the universe before!"
Perhaps you're on the other side of the coin, and you're the service provider. During the holidays, you'll probably be faced with at least one stressed-out, tired, and frazzled customer. In business, the best and easiest way to defuse a complaining, irate customer is not to make excuses or to place blame for the circumstances that made the customer upset. Even if there was an excuse, and even if you could place blame, angry customers rarely care about the reasons. The best thing to do is let them vent, and then say, "I'm so sorry you were inconvenienced. What wonderful thing could I do to make you happy?"
I once had one of those awful flying experiences where flight after flight was delayed. What should have been a three-hour flight turned into a fifteen-hour, multiple-city, exhausting nightmare, causing me to miss meetings in my intended city. At 3 A.M., by the time I was finally within thirty minutes of landing at my destination airport, I suddenly smelled something wonderful: the flight attendants were baking chocolate chip cookies! That sweet, comforting aroma filled the airline cabin, and our small group of 20 passengers waited with anticipation as the flight attendants made their way down the aisle, handing each of us a warm cookie. I instantly abandoned my plans for an enraged letter-writing campaign against the airline and was effortlessly relieved of all my anger and exhaustion—all by one soft, freshly baked cookie.
Here's one last example of a nice way to bring joy to the holiday season or any season Several years ago, my friend Debra had just moved to the San Francisco Bay area. One day, as she went to pay the toll for the Bay Bridge, she received a pleasant surprise—the truck driver ahead of her had paid the toll for her. Touched by the generosity of this total stranger, Debra decided to adopt his behavior as her own. Ever since that day, every time she crosses the bridge, she pays the toll for the person behind her. She does it even when she has no spare change, and she does it because it felt so good when someone did it for her. When my "nice factor" is low and I want to give it a boost, you'll find me frantically looking for a toll road somewhere. Try it during this holiday season. It works every time.