What is your gut reaction to a mistake? What is your 5 min reaction? How do you feel about it years later?
Friday nights are pizza and movie night at the Corella household. Boys were rabble-rousing, setting up the dinner trays, and arguing over which movie we were going to watch...as usual. The wife and I were cleaning up the kitchen and setting the table. Door knocks, pizza guy hands wife the pizza, wife hands pizza guy the cash tip (she’d already paid for the pizza online), movie commences. All is well.
Next day the family is out on one of our usual weekend trips; be it to the park, the museum, adjoining city herbal garden, etc. We stop to get some coffee and chocolate milks. As we get to paying, my wife grabs her pocketbook and begins exasperatingly flipping through the various bills and receipts looking for the $100 bill that she wants to break before we continue on our weekend jaunt. She can’t find it. Uh-oh.
We pay the cashier and go on our way. My wife is visibly frustrated. Did she give the pizza guy the best cash tip of his life? You guessed it. After a few moments of silence my wife finally speaks, “well, we certainly made his night.” Exactly.
Can you picture the pizza guy’s reaction when he got back to his car? The cynical types would probably say, “the pizza guy was a thief! he should have gone back and asked if you really meant to give him a monstrous tip.” The mean types would probably say, “You guys are idiots, you got what you deserve.” I prefer to think that we gave that pizza guy a great story. Maybe he called us morons, maybe he laughed, maybe he cried. Maybe he really needed that extra bit of cash to complete his weekend or pay his bills. The catalyst in the whole event was my wife’s final reaction. She realized the futility in holding on to the anger associated with the slip up.
So now whenever we stumble, at work or in our personal lives, we pause and ask ourselves how could we react? Anger and martyrdom are easy. Humor and perspective are harder and what we strive for: what kind of story will we be able to tell 1,5,10 years from now?
Off to create more stories.
One of my favorite parts of the movie Monsters, Inc was when Sulley and Mike first discover that laughter is significantly more powerful than screams. The same applies, I believe, to positive versus corrective feedback. [For the purposes of this discussion, positive feedback means I like the behavior and corrective feedback means I don’t like the behavior].
I’m a big proponent of giving feedback as the situation is happening. If a restaurant includes a website on the receipt, I jot down a few notes on the back and log-on at night. If there’s a comment card available at the store, I’ll fill it out. I earnestly feel that feedback is the only thing anybody will ever give you for FREE and has the potential to improve your life. At the very least, all feedback, positive or corrective, has in some form allowed me to gain some new insight about myself or the person delivering the feedback. Even when the feedback was non-illuminating (I already knew via other sources) or wasteful (no value add, cruel, etc) I learned something about the feedback giver - regardless, I learned something and learning = gain. I feel that positive feedback, however, goes the furthest in improving a person’s countenance.
At times, we can get so focused on what we’re not getting, focused on providing corrective feedback (e.g. “Miss, my food is cold”; “Sir, this is not the service that I expected”; “Excuse me, why is this taking so long?”) that we fail to understand how much more powerful positive feedback is to achieving long term behavioral change. How often do we go out of our way to recognize the waiter when he did something RIGHT; even if he was just “doing his job”? How often do we ask to “speak to the manager” to publicly commend the grocery store check-out girl for her expedient processing of your groceries? Personally, I find it more invigorating to look for the good of the event versus the bad.
A simple token of appreciation or notice can profoundly energize (laughter vs. screams). A simple, “hey, you’re doing well” or “I noticed you how you handled this and you did good” and of course, “thank you” can fundamentally alter the mood of your and the receiver’s day.
Special thanks for Justin for taking time out of his day to say “good job”.
What is the difference between being comfortable versus being complacent? I have no idea, so I challenge myself. Challenge my thinking, my parenting, my husband-ing; attempt to challenge my assumptions and my understanding of things. I won't get it right all the time so I welcome all constructive feedback. The goal? To "...be satisfied with life always but never with one's self." (George Jean Nathan)