What is your first impression of entering a new place – whether that be a shop, someone’s home, business or even a new country? It is the authenticity of the greeting you receive (if any…); a feeling about the atmosphere (friendly, aggressive, reverent, neutral…); or perhaps how welcome you are made to feel? All these impressions come to us in a very short space of time – and often without realising, you have made a judgement – either consciously or subconsciously about the people, company or place with which you are about to engage.
The concept of service has many people thinking it means an act of servitude. Or that to give service implies that the giver is somehow a lesser person than the person who receives. How many times do you see people wholly dismissive of those who provide them services, arrogant in their perceived right to receive such favours?
Having just returned from a period of time in the USA; where I spent my time in mostly rural areas and small towns – with only the occasional excursion into large cities; just like here at home, there are many different experiences of the act of providing service. The concept of tipping adds another dimension of complexity altogether, and working out what was appropriate (or not…), was at first a little daunting – but it soon became obvious what was considered a reasonable tip for service provided and what was not. The social cues were certainly subtle – but well evident if transgressed.
Providing service, much like showing gratitude or minding our manners and social graces – all help lubricate our interactions and make for a much more genteel or civilised society. It takes time to learn what is expected – and each new community, family, business or country – all have their own set of rules – some definitely more overt than others. What does not seem to differ though is that it is proper to treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. Being polite, courteous, civil and gracious show respect for the other person – unless it is exaggerated so much as to become an insult.
So what’s the point of this topic? To observe that in today’s world, where many are so concerned with how they are perceived by others, and where many take extraordinary lengths to curate their image via social media or the like – it is still the face-to-face or personal interactions which provide us with the most authentic impression of how we are received by others. In a business it is often the first point-of-contact who sets the tone for the business – their bad day or surly attitude can put-off many customers who vow not to return. Alternatively, a genuine welcome and helpful demeanour all assist cement a more loyal relationship with the business concerned.
Courtesy and respect for others starts at the top – it is embedded in the culture of a business, or a family – by how people are treated by ‘those in charge’ – the bosses or parents; they set the standard for how everyone treats everyone else. A healthy sense of self-worth can only develop in a supportive and nurturing environment. Arrogant, controlling or dismissive attitudes or behaviour can create competition among colleagues or family members. A lack of respect for the rights of others often causes a breakdown in the fabric of the entity itself – people then become suspicious of intentions, lack trust or simply elect to engage themselves only at a very minimal level.
Being aware of our personal impact on others begins with noticing that other people exist and have as much right to be here as we do. Saying thank-you, holding the door open for those following, a nod or smile of acknowledgement all make for much more pleasant and less stressful interactions. Often the larger the entity, the less personal it becomes. Small towns versus large cities. Small businesses versus large corporations. It takes a conscious effort to ensure that the simple courtesies we extend those we know, are also made to strangers – remember it is often the exchanges we have with strangers that give us much delight as well!
So the point again? That a successful business, or any other entity, depends on the tone of the interactions between people. We all respond best when shown politeness, empathy, compassion, kindness and love. Some actions are more appropriate than others depending on the situation concerned – and we all know how uncomfortable and unproductive it is to be involved or present in situations of conflict. If it is possible to extract yourself from the conflict – well and good – but if not, the environment can become highly stressful and eventually it will impact our health and wellbeing.
If you want some help to improve the culture in your business or to better engage with people then give me a call!