Many people think that kindness is a sign of weakness when it comes to business or getting your way. Actually just the opposite is true. Kindness is its very own strength. It takes someone strong and patient to be kind to others that are misunderstanding, belittling, or disagreeing with them. It almost is a well-kept secret that kindness is truly the best way to get what you want in life. Here is an example for you that happened to me last week.
My in-laws had us over for dinner and while we were talking my father-in-law turned to my husband Josh and I and asked if we didn’t mind sharing with him what we paid for our internet.
I said, very proudly, “We pay about $80 a month.”
My father-in-law’s eyes got wide before he quickly tried to hide his reaction. “The reason I ask is because I have the same provider you do and I had them upgrade me to a faster speed and I wanted to make sure that the $33 they were charging me a month was a fair price. I guess it is.” He said sheepishly.
Immediately I felt really embarrassed. How come I was paying so much more? Had I been bamboozled? That was $50 a month I was paying like an idiot. I was pretty harsh on myself, since I really try to make wise money decisions.
So when we got home I told my husband that first thing I was going to do tomorrow morning was call our internet provider and let them have a piece of my mind. Thankfully, I had all night and into the morning to calm myself down.
As I pulled up the website with the customer account service number, I sat back in my chair and folded my arms. I could handle this one of two ways. I could get on the phone and demand to know why my bill was so high, and then threaten to leave a bad review on all of their social media platforms (I’m cool like that), or I could be nice and see what happens from there. I didn’t like the idea of being nice and cordial about it all. I felt embarrassed and like I had been tricked. And I was positive I would have to fight for a lower rate.
Then I remembered a story told by Dale Carnegie, author of my favorite book How to Win Friends and Influence People. He said that there was a park near his home where he loved to walk his dog and let him run free without a collar on. One day a new police officer saw his dog running lose in the park and chewed Carnegie out royally and said that if he ever did that again he would give him a ticket. Embarrassed and mad, Carnegie took his dog home. Sure enough they went to the park later that week and against the officer’s warning Carnegie decided to let his dog off of his leash. Only a couple minutes had passed when the officer started heading towards Carnegie’s dog. Carnegie ran towards the cop and started to sincerely apologize and be nice to the officer. He then admitted that he had let his dog off of his leash and knew the officer had to give him a ticket. To his astonishment the officer, whose total mood had changed said to not worry about it.
Amazing the power of kindness right?
This story played in the back of my mind as the “on hold” music played from the other end of my cell phone. A female voice greeted me asking what my problem was. I then, taking a deep breath, proceeded to tell the lady the story with my father-in-law, about how he had such a great rate, and was worried I was overpaying on my internet bill. I even used my extra “pleasant” voice.
She immediately told me they could do something to help me out! As she got my information she proceeded to tell me that she too lived in Utah and that Utah people where so nice. Already this lady was on my side. Well about 10 minutes later and a couple of pleasantries about Utah, my internet bill was cut to $29 dollars a month. I was one happy camper. I thanked her sincerely and hung up.
“Wow,” I said to myself. “This nice thing really does work.” And I didn’t even have to threaten to post negative reviews.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to us that being kind “really works.” We are all human beings with human emotions and human desires to be respected and loved. This experience I had with my internet provider reminded me that being nice wins out every time. I remember my days back being in the restaurant industry. The customers that were nice got the fastest service and greatest efforts from my teams. Yes, the customers that threw fits got what they wanted to—and usually with an extra hop in our step, but then we all felt miserable and unsatisfied to serve them. It was like serving them was something we had to do because we made a mistake. Instead of the attitude of, “Oh man, I am so sorry about that. Let me fix that for you.” When you finished serving the kind, understanding customer you felt better about the situation and yourself.
I have another story that happened this week where I didn’t handle myself very well.
Josh and I had an awesome coupon for a buy-one-get-one at Jamba Juice. We were excited since he didn’t go there a lot and thought that it would be a fun addition to our date night. We arrive at the store and take a good 10 minutes to decide which smoothie each of us wanted. It was our turn to order so we told the young man what we wanted and handed him our coupon. He took one look at our coupon and called the manager over.
They proceeded to try to scan the coupon then both concluded that their system was still down from an event that happened yesterday. As the manager was explaining this to us, she looked at us with a smile.
“Don’t worry though,” she said. “I will give you 10% off your order.”
I looked at her a little bewildered. “That’s a dollar off our order,” I said.
She frowned and stared at the register annoyed. “Okay, okay, we usually don’t do this but I could give you our employee discount of 20% off your whole order. That is the best I can do for you.”
I just stared for a good minute the said, “but that is only $2 off our whole order. Our coupon is for a free drink….”
“Well you don’t have to buy them if you don’t want to,” she said. At this point I didn’t know what to do. Did I throw a fit and demand that they give us our free drink? That made me look cheap and immature. Did I just accept $2 off our order? That made me look weak and shy. With all the eyes of the line behind us watching the back of my neck I told her we would buy our two drinks. By then she knew I was mad. I never had a good poker face.
I sat on a bright orange stool so mad and getting more annoyed by the second as I reflected on what just happened. I felt like an idiot and even though I did the “mature thing” and still ordered our drinks I felt like I had still lost. After some thought and asking around I think what I should have handled it with more direct kindness.
I should have said something like, “I understand that you coupon system is down, but is there any way you can still give us the BOGO offer. We chose to come here because of that coupon.”
Then at least I would have asked for it. Instead I just got madder and madder and even though I didn’t yell or scream I wanted to. But I think that if I would have been more direct, overly kind, but asked for the desired outcome I would have wanted that maybe I would have gotten that free smoothie. If not, and the manager was still not budging on her $2 off, I could have shook it off a little better knowing that at least I defended myself.
What is the lesson to be learned here? Stand up for yourself. Being kind doesn’t mean you are weak. I was weak when I didn’t tell the manager at Jamba Juice how I felt about our coupon not being taken. I should have kindly asked for what I wanted. It’s a weird sensation for a lot of us, but it is something we can easily learn.
So don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, defend yourself, or let someone know your opinion, but always, always do it in a kind manner (over the top nice if you have to). It won’t work every time (Looking at you Jamba) but it will work the majority of the time with both parties feeling respected and both needs met.