Pride: A Five-Letter Word That Can Win Or Lose Customers, And The Respect Of Your Peers

Let’s face it: we’re all human. Okay, more specifically, I assume we all are, because aliens are really good at hiding, and Sasquatches don’t write newspaper columns too often. Then, there’s Weird Uncle Pete who may very well fall into a category all his own. But, for the most part: human.

As humans, we all have pride. Pride is so engrained in us that the Catholic Church has gone out of their way to let us know that it’s on the seven most-unwanted list. And it’s a natural response. When we do something well, we’re proud of our efforts. This is fine, to a degree. This is healthy, so long as you don’t go all Jim Jones about it and start offering free Kool-Aid. It’s when we allow pride to begin clouding or, worse, precluding, rational thought that we start to run into some trouble.

Pride can be a fickle thing. It can make us say and do things that our rational mind knows to be wrong or, at the very least, not the best idea in the world. This is where we need to take a step back and assess ourselves and be prepared to acknowledge that – again – we’re human.

In business, ‘Pride goeth before the fall’ is all too true. I have personally been a victim of this vice from time to time and, in hindsight, the only one I hurt was myself. In fact, I let it get in the way of a customer interaction just the other day. I allowed my pride to immediately jump to the conclusion that my customer was wrong, and I was right, based on my wealth of computer knowledge in relation to her veritable lack of it. Know what? We were both wrong.

She was experiencing a two-fold problem: first, her version of Internet Explorer was bringing up a cached version of one of the web sites that we had written for her and, second, Bing was doing some stupid things I didn’t even know could happen. In the end, I took a step back, listened, had her show me what she was experiencing, and we devised a solution (clear the cache, and make one minor tweak to allow Bing not to do stupid things to us anymore.)

Had I not done this, and had I instead let pride take the reigns, I may have lost a customer, and their respect for me as well. And how awful would that have been?

Allowing yourself to possess a ‘pride override’ switch is a learned talent. My first piece of advice is to assume that you are, in fact, wrong. No matter how much you know that you are right because you’re nearly deified in your own mind. Humble yourself to this level, and work it like a Geometry proof. Take the issue step by step and empirically prove that you are as right as you believe yourself to be. Know what will happen? You’ll find the problem with a level head, and retain your good standing with the public at large. Or, in the best case scenario, you’ll be able to walk them through why you’re right, proving to them in a kind and gentle way that they’ve made an error.

If it goes the second way, I also highly recommend playing it down. Waaaaay down. I like to make folks feel more comfortable about their misconceptions or errant ways by giving the ‘Aw, shucks. This sort of stuff happens all the time. If this is the worst thing that happens today, it’ll still be a great day’ speech. That sort of thing. Because their pride might be damaged at just that moment, and an inferiority complex brought on by your smug derision probably isn’t going to gain you any brownie points.

This concept also works well with employee interactions. When I was a young manager (read: Really bad at it) I would get visibly upset about situations (I learned fast that I was a moron). When you approach a situation with delicacy and tact, your employees, too, feel better about themselves, and are more open to gentle coaxing in the form of friendly advice on how not to make the same mistake. I also take the time to recall that I’m human, and make mistakes as well. I take this a step further by attempting to relay a similar story to their plight, should I have one. “Heck, last week I did so-and-so, so compared to that, this is nothing.” It humanizes you as a manager, and levels the mental playing field by removing the ‘us versus them’ wall that often exists. Now we have something in common, and I seem to understand their plight because, well: we do, and I have.

So, in the words of Glen Campbell, “Try a little kindness”. Don’t be glib, prideful, or angry when something goes wrong. Treat the situation as you would wish to be treated, were the roles reversed. I guarantee your street cred will soar, and respect will follow closely behind in the majority of cases.


~ by digitalninjasmedia on October 11, 2012.

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