How To Make Hostile Guests Love You (Part Two)

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Like the old saying, "you catch more fly honeys with vinegar..." or something like that.

Years ago I had the good fortune of working for a man named John Maria.  I have had many bosses over the years, but none had a better fundamental understanding of human nature than John.  One day he gave me a book and told me to read it.  He said the answer to almost every life problem was found in this book.  It was a pretty bold claim, but I did learn a great deal from reading the book.

I pulled out the book recently and read the chapter regarding this topic.  The book is called, “Get Anyone To Do Anything” by David J. Lieberman, PhD.  While the title is a bit of hyperbole (hence me writing this blog rather than living in Bill Gates’ mansion with Alyssa Milano) there is a great deal of wisdom in it.  Dr Lieberman gives incredible insight into human nature and how to use it to your advantage.

In the book, Dr Lieberman makes a very convincing argument that there are two important factors that primarily determine whether or not people like you:

People like people who like them.

 

And

People like people who are like them.

 

This seems incredibly basic.  Most everyone would agree on these principles.  If you look at your friends, you are probably most drawn to those who like you and have similar interests.  While most people would agree with this fact, implementing it in a server/guests relationship is the root of the problem.  Too often servers will ignore these fundamentals when relating to hostile guests.  Even though they know how to make people like them, they refuse to use this knowledge in interactions with their guests.

Now that we understand what makes people like us, we just need to perfect the technique to make guests like us.  This is a technique and not a trick.  It only works if it is based on a sincere desire to make a guest like you.  Hostile guests are suspicious and will react poorly if they view you as a “phony”.  You must want the guest to like you.  Once you understand that, then it is just a matter of how to convey this to the guest.

There are four ways you can demonstrate to your guests that you like them and are like them:

Be Nice: This should go without saying.  Yet when a guest is hostile towards the server, most servers respond in kind.  This is the opposite of how you should handle the situation.  With hostile guests you have to be even nicer.  This allows them to realize that your kindness is sincere.  Find a way to exceed their requests.  If they ask for lemon with their water, bring them out a plate with several lemon wedges nicely arranged.  If they send back a drink because it is too weak, have the bartender add a bit more booze.  It is cheaper than comping or remaking the drink.  If they ask for substitutions, tell them that you can make it happen for them.  Find a way to make them feel special by going above and beyond to be nice.  This trait works for all five groups mentioned in the last post.

Be Humble: It is very easy for the confidence of a great server to be interpreted as cockiness by a hostile guest.  This is disastrous for winning over the first three types of hostile guests.  You must find a balance between humility and professionalism.  Your professionalism should be comforting to your guests, but not intimidating.  Acknowledge your mistakes.  Compliment them on difficult questions.  Make sure they feel like they are in control of the meal and your role is just to put their plan into action.  This shows that you care, removes the intimidation factor, and differentiates you from other servers.

Be Competent: This is the counterbalance of the previous point.  Being humble does not mean you fail to do your job well.  Being competent on the other hand does not mean being cocky.  You need to show your guests that you can handle their requests while still letting them guide their own meal.  Being knowledgeable and concerned with their needs is the middle ground.  Their requests must take priority and fulfilled promptly.  By doing this you allow them to enjoy the meal without the need to micromanage you.  This will cause them to let down their guard and warm up to you.

Be Different: You have to add a bit of personality into the experience.  Remember the third and fourth groups dislike you because you are a server and a person.  This means you must be different than other servers and people.  Be sincere and human.  Find any opportunity you can to compliment them or show that you are like them.  Their dislike of servers (and people) is based on their stereotypes of the generic version.  The further you can be from generic (within reason) the more you can avoid being held responsible for past experiences with servers.  Remember the third rule of serving: generic servers receive generic tips.

These four characteristics are the antidote to the poison a hostile guest brings to your section.  All four steps will improve the situation with any of the five types of hostile guests.  Each of these characteristics must be used until you determine which works.  The upside is that they are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, each of these characteristics compliments the other.  In tomorrow’s post, I will describe exactly how to integrate each of these steps into serving your guests.

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5 Responses to How To Make Hostile Guests Love You (Part Two)

  1. Becky November 24, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    I didn’t even know I was using Lieberman’s philosophy and techniques – this stuff just comes naturally to me, I guess. I can do the opposite easily as well.

    Once I was at the party of a friend of my husband’s and I noticed a guy sitting away from the rest of the partiers, all wallflowerish. I went over, sat down with him, struck up a conversation and we were soon laughing and talking about interests we had in common. I suggested we join the rest of the group and he agreed.

    The host (I found out later) remarked to my husband that I had brought the guy into the fold pretty deftly and my husband said this: “Becky can make you feel at home in a strange place or like a stranger in your own home.” We laughed about it later because it’s very true. It takes some doing to piss me off, but once I am, get outta the way. On the other hand, I’ve watched as I helped people feel totally at ease (we get a LOT of out-of-towners from the hotel next door) sitting at a bar in an unfamiliar city and have heard from more than one of them how friendly our town is, comparitively.

    If you want to make someone feel at home, I have two magic words: Lingua franca. It’s the bartender’s best friend. Here’s the definition I refer to, the third from Merriam Webster:

    3: something resembling a common language

  2. Becky November 24, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    I didn’t even know I was using Lieberman’s philosophy and techniques – this stuff just comes naturally to me, I guess. I can do the opposite easily as well.

    Once I was at the party of a friend of my husband’s and I noticed a guy sitting away from the rest of the partiers, all wallflowerish. I went over, sat down with him, struck up a conversation and we were soon laughing and talking about interests we had in common. I suggested we join the rest of the group and he agreed.

    The host (I found out later) remarked to my husband that I had brought the guy into the fold pretty deftly and my husband said this: “Becky can make you feel at home in a strange place or like a stranger in your own home.” We laughed about it later because it’s very true. It takes some doing to piss me off, but once I am, get outta the way. On the other hand, I’ve watched as I helped people feel totally at ease (we get a LOT of out-of-towners from the hotel next door) sitting at a bar in an unfamiliar city and have heard from more than one of them how friendly our town is, comparitively.

    If you want to make someone feel at home, I have two magic words: Lingua franca. It’s the bartender’s best friend. Here’s the definition I refer to, the third from Merriam Webster:

    3: something resembling a common language

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. How To Make Hostile Guests Love You (Part Three) « Tips on improving your Tips - November 29, 2010

    […] in order to get the most out of this post you should read parts one and two.  They create the foundation for this summary post and will be referenced […]

  2. How To Make Hostile Guests Love You (Part Three) « Tips on improving your Tips - November 29, 2010

    […] in order to get the most out of this post you should read parts one and two.  They create the foundation for this summary post and will be referenced […]

  3. » How To Make Hostile Guests Love You (Part Three) Tip²: Tips For Improving Your Tips - December 17, 2010

    […] How To Make Hostile Guests Love You (Part Two) Thank You Mister Robinson […]

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