Tag Archives: mistakes

Trust: A new thought for relationships

Familiarity breeds contempt.  [This quote manifested itself as I completed writing the blog post below.  It belongs here at the start, but I found humor in how I only had this “revelatory” moment after expressing fully the thought below.]

Trust is not about the truster believing in the other party.  Trust is evidently about being comfortable confronting the other party, perhaps even to the point of being downright aggravating.  If you are in a committed relationship, consider for a second: have you ever been in a heated discussion with your significant other and wished — or even suggested — she or he would talk to you the way they communicated disagreement with less-trusted folks, like their co-workers?  Have you wished your boss would talk to you the way she or he talks to your customers when they disagree?  I know civility is losing ground to stress-induced verbal confrontation as a means of dialoging in the United States, but too many of us treat the people closest to us — those we need and trust the most — the worst.  We go well beyond “clear and effective communication” an approach contemptuous familiarity.


Recently, I have been involved in a number of discussions in which I expected a less-familiar conversant to challenge me more; and in a few others in which I expected a closely-acquainted conversant to find no reason for pause.  As the more distant person went to great lengths to be polite or respectful of my opinion, the dearer friend not only removed their gloves, but they swung away with no regard for how I might receive their harsh words.  And in both cases, my only deduction to explain causation is that TRUST HAPPENS.  As it does, the varnish of considerate communication seems to peel away to reveal a rawness that can be disconcerting.  You might find yourself wondering, “who is this person, and where is the guy/woman I thought I knew?”

As trust grows, conflict between two people, or within a group, seems to grow, not decrease.  I listen to many young people talk about relationships and how important it is that they “trust” the other person.  They mention it almost before they mention love.  I sit in meetings in which managers and leaders spend inordinate amounts of time figuring out how to increase trust between the customer and the organization.

And now, I have a different perspective on trust.  Gaining trust strengthens the relationship to the point where the engaged parties don’t use that trust to extend more latitude to the other.  Quite the opposite.  In our society, we use it like a weapon.  Now that you trust me, let me tell you how I really feel.  My wife, who knows me best, says I can be downright unrelenting sometimes.  And when she points it out, I find that I am not only communicating candidly, I am taking advantage of our trusting relationship to vent, blow off steam, unload about things that happen at work, during a really bad racquetball game, because I didn’t sleep well.  I haven’t cared or been more kind and generous BECAUSE of trust, I have instead forced her to accept the fury I might rather direct at others.  But . . . . then they won’t like me.  I trust that she still will, eventually.


Therefore, I am going to spend some time trying to offer a new level of candor from the outset of a relationship.  And I further expect that, as a result, fewer people will want trusting relationships with me.  But the relationships that prevail will be far more enjoyable because the most contentious opinions and ideas we might discuss will have been dealt with while the person is figuring me out.  I hope my wife and some of my closer associates notice!

Reversing my relationship management approach will mean I won’t be subject to, or use, the type of brutal directness that can come with “trust.”  Instead, the more seasoned my relationships become by time and shared experiences, the more harmonious they will become.

Does this ring true for you, or am I alone in recognizing that trust can create some funk in my strongest relationships?


Writing great last chapters

Danny Meyer really gets it.  This is the last chapter in this week-long series on my new favorite business text, Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table.  See my July 28 post for details on the book.

Do you ever let “perfect” get in the way of very good?  Have you ever had a client or customer walk away from an experience with a bad taste in his or her mouth?  Or more likely, have you ever been on the short end of a customer transaction in which you were slighted?

Meyer and his teams practice what he brilliantly calls “writing great last chapters.”  The beauty of this idea is that it does not avoid, but embraces mistakes.  It is not foolishly naive.  It does not promote committing mistakes so you can look like a hero when you clean them up.

Instead, Meyer masterfully uses mistakes as opportunities to leave customers with a lasting last impression that is most likely to bring them back and make them loyal customers.

“Are you in it for keeps?  It’s almost always worth bearing a higher short-term cost if you want to win in the long run. . .  Generosity of spirit and a gracious approach to problem-solving are, with few exceptions, the most effective way I know to earn lasting goodwill for your business.”

So sayeth Danny Meyer, so sayeth the flock.

When you or your business comes up short — and you have to become much more critical of your performance to be sensitized to customer’s subtle body language or to be able to handle their outright criticism — use it as an opportunity to go to great lengths to let your true spirit shine through.

Meyer says to train your staff to be agents of your client, rather than gatekeepers for your business.  Look for solutions, not excuses.   Find ways to say yes, instead of apologetically saying no.

If you’ve already reached that point I wrote about last time out, where you decide to commit to your business, this should be straightforward.  In fact, it’s something of a gut check.

I don’t agree with, or fully get all of Meyer’s points.  For instance, it seems parsing your desired employee profile along a 51/49 fissure, skewed two percent toward empathy and emotional intelligence over skills, is difficult to quantify.  It almost seems gimmicky.  I agree that more empathy is important and that skills are easier to teach than interpersonal skills, but his ideas like trailing as part of his hiring process, is probably more effective than seeking 51 percent empathy scores.

However, for all the business books I have read, and all the service seminars I have attended, his philosophy perfectly suits my sensibilities and those needed for my work.

I appreciate that his ideals are steeped in good old-fashioned intuition and honed to a fine point by real-world experience and just-right mentoring along the way.

At the end of the day, you need to read the book for yourself and draw your own conclusions.  I hope this has been a worthy last chapter, even though its not borne of a mistake or customer service guffaw, but as I prepare to train a new employee in the coming months, you better believe I am going to teach them the importance of writing great last chapters.