Anne and I arrived at a new car agency to lease a car and we were scheduled to meet with Rick, the General Manager. But when we arrived, we learned he was gone for the afternoon.
“I’m Bill,” said the sales manager as he walked up to us. “And Rick left your information with me.”
“That’s fine,” I replied, actually peeved Rick was not there. “But please call him on his cell phone so we can schedule a new time to see him,” I said, as I smiled and reached out gently squeezing Bill’s right shoulder.
“But I have the information,” he stated adamantly as he pulled back from me. “I know” I answered, “But please get Rick on the line.”
“All right,” he said with a frown, as he turned and walked over to the receptionist and asked her to call the General Manager. “Rick is on the phone,” he said a moment later.
“I’m sorry I missed you,” said Rick. “But I had a meeting I had to attend. I left a message on your voice mail telling you I’d be out and proposing alternative times for us to meet. But I told our sales manager Tom that if you and Anne came in to have the information for you.”
“That’s fine Rick but I hadn’t gotten your message,” I replied. “In any case, Anne is your customer and it is she you need to reschedule.” He and Anne then spoke as I waited elsewhere.
Across the showroom, a half basketball court sized facility; there was a faint buzz beyond the new cars on display. “He put his hands on me,” Bill growled to another employee. “Who does he think he is?” And as the two walked off, I could hear him still complaining.
“Bill,” I said walking up to him, “Can we speak privately in your office?” “Yes,” he said.
“Have I offended you,” I asked when we got there. After an instant of silence, he answered, “Yes you did. First I have boundaries and I don’t like people to cross them.” “Does that mean you don’t want people to touch you,” I asked. “Yes,” he replied.
“I’m 64-years-old,” I stated as I looked him in the eye. “For most of my life my conduct was formal. No feely-touchy. Only in recent years have I begun to hug or to touch people. Most of them like it but for you I crossed a boundary and it offended you.”
“Yes,” he said surprised I was so direct. “What else was there?” “Well,” he stated, “When you told me to get Rick on the line, it was demeaning. I had all the information you and your wife wanted and you ignored it. You just smiled and said get him on the line in a condescending manner.
“You don’t know me,” he continued. “And you didn’t care about the work I had done or how I felt. I have worked at this agency for 7 years and I’ve been in the car business for 16 years. Before that I had a career in the Marines.”
“You’re right,” I replied, thinking about what he said. “I should have acknowledged you and taken an interest in you. If I had, I would have learned about your Marine background and your stature in the car business. I apologize for not treating you with respect. If I were you, I would feel just as you do. My conduct was demeaning and thoughtless.”
As he absorbed the apology, he began to relax and then he smiled. “I might have I overreacted,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
“No apology is necessary,” I said as I shook his hand. “In fact, I’ve learned a valuable lesson from this. I won’t treat you that way again and I will consciously try not to treat anyone else that way either. Thank you for sharing your feelings with me.” Though it was never stated I thought of what an obnoxious oaf I had been.
With that, we shook hands again and he smiled and warmly walked me to the door, and he shook my hand again. For he had gotten the respect and recognition he desired and deserved.
Then at the direction of the General Manager, he gave Anne a brand new car as a loaner, free of charge. And he personally went out of his way to have it filled with gas as he gave her a cheerful good-bye.
Here is the point. We all feel as Bill did. We want respect and to feel appreciated. It is so easy to do: take a sincere interest in others, ask them about themselves, listen to them and acknowledge them. It is a simple yet powerful formula for success for those who will follow it.