If You Want to Be Liked, Don't Try

confrontation customer relations friendship honesty integrity jobs people pleasing respect service industry

I notice this behavior in myself as well. As someone used to a very high standard of excellence, I expect myself to do the best I can at any given job. When I don't live up to the expectations I set myself, I get frustrated. If the standards are set by other people, I try to live up to those standards as well, and again get frustrated at myself if I can't live up to other peoples' standards. The result has been constant frustration.

Part of this behavior was out of a desire to be the best at what I did. Another part of it was a desire to please others so they would like me. Unfortunately, it seemed the more I tried to please people, the more they demanded of me, and the more I seemed to fail to live up to their expectations.

It took me a long time to realize that I will never be able to please everybody. In fact, I'd say that it is impossible to please any one person all the time. The more you try to please people, the less they seem to like you.

Explanations for Whining

The reasoning for this is not really maliciousness on their part. When you strive to live up to someone's demands, they subconsciously learn that they can make demands of you and get what they want. This reinforces the behavior, making it stronger and more insistent the next time it happens. Their demands and expectations slowly get more and more unrealistic, until they are demanding ridiculous things from you. When you finally reach your breaking point and need to take some time to yourself or otherwise neglect you 'duty', they get really upset and feel resentful. This is simply because they have gotten in the habit of expecting you to please them, a habit which you encouraged. This was a pattern I would develop in my relationships without realizing it.

In customer service, there is the assumption that you are there to please the customer and live up to their demands. Customers sometimes get it into their heads that you exist to fulfill their needs, no matter how ridiculous those needs might become. Sometimes they just need a reminder that you are human and we live in a world that has limits on what you can do, and sometimes they are just jerks who need to be smacked.

High-powered individuals tend to approach life with the attitude that if they want something bad enough, they can get it. When this attitude is directed at abstract actions or inanimate objects, it's fine, but things get hairy when it is directed at people. Screaming at a computer, while useless, does little emotional damage. Screaming at an airline check-in agent is actually counterproductive, and does hurt. These people need to be reminded that there are boundaries that dictate how they can treat others, but if we don't step up and assert those boundaries, customers might simply assume they are not overstepping them.

People Like Those with Integrity

The reality is that people are attracted to others who do not always try to please them (obviously, this doesn't apply in service jobs, but even then, some assertion of personality is required for good service). During my brief study of pickup, I learned that the biggest obstacle most men have in attracting women is that they try too hard to please the object of their desire. Women might find this behavior endearing, but they don't really develop the right kind of attraction and respect necessary for a deeper relationship. Far more attractive is a strong sense of self. A willingness to help others is good; a desire to please them and subsume your own needs and personality is bad.

People who maintain their ideals in the face of difficult circumstances, demonstrating integrity, are naturally inspiring to us. We respect their strength of character, even if we don't always admire what they stand for. When someone is the same person around all his friends, he is seen as reliable and honest, someone we enjoy being with and someone we are comfortable with. We don't have to worry about him being awkward or uncomfortable, since he is comfortable in his own skin. And because he is comfortable with himself, we naturally feel comfortable around him.

The problem is, there will always be someone to challenge us. The only reasonable answer we can give them is, "I know what I'm doing, and sorry if you don't like it, but this is how it's going to be done." As a personal trainer, I often deal with athletes who are stronger or faster than me. I still have to coach them, but they will sometimes claim they know better, even if they clearly don't. If I simply conceded to them, they would lose confidence in my ability to coach them (why do they need me if they know better anyway?). And then we would both lose. Instead, I assert to them that they need to listen to me and do the movement right, or I will bench them for safety's sake. I don't try to stroke their ego by agreeing with them, nor do I give them the satisfaction of winning the argument. Instead, I tell them when they are wrong, even if they don't want to hear it and put them in their place if it is called for. The result: they think I'm a good trainer, and they like me as a person, because I don't back down so easily.

I think the key is doing your best by your own standards. You know your job best. Be willing to learn and improve, but if you are doing a good job, and you know it, don't let others tell you otherwise. They aren't the ones behind the counter.

Entering the 'real world,' do you have any customer relations horror stories?

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