A long, long, time ago, I lived in Los Angeles, California. I was young and I had a date with a really nice girl. We went to dinner, and afterwards we went out for ice cream. As we were walking in the door of the ice cream shop, one of the stars of Saturday Night Live was walking out. The girl that I was with was an actress, and she loved this comedic actor. When she saw him, she said: “Oh my God! ! I love your work. I am a really big fan.”
The big star sort of pushed right through the two of us and continued walking. He never acknowledged that she even existed. She was crushed. I offered to say something to him, but she declined. I said something unpleasant and provocative anyway, making certain that he heard me (I was young).
A smile and a thank you would have meant the world to her. Any small acknowledgment would have been appropriate.
Maybe it is purely circumstantial that this one time big star is now a complete unknown. I think it’s something else.
A Lesson in Humility, Manners, Acknowledgment, and Validation
Later that same year, a bunch of my friends who were in Los Angeles playing music called me and insisted on taking me to a New Year’s Eve party in the Valley. I hated the Valley almost as much as I hated New Years’ Eve (which in my experience was amateur night with people sick and passed out by 8:30 PM). Against my strong refusals, they picked me up and I went anyway.
When we arrived, I was the first one standing at the door, hoping to get this over with as quickly as possible. I was shocked when Edward James Olmos opened the door. At the time, he was on Miami Vice, but I hadn’t watched television in years. I knew him from Blade Runner.
He grabbed my hand, and he said: “Welcome to my home. Thanks so much for choosing to spend your New Year’s Eve with my family.” I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. His son played guitar with some of my friends at the Guitar Institute. His son had hair as long as any of us standing on his porch, and he didn’t treat me—or any of my friends—any different than he treated his other guests that night. I had a wonderful time, and Mr. Olmos gave me an incredible tour of his home. I am still impressed with what a true gentleman and gracious host he was.
He acknowledged us as human beings (even though it is arguable that we were at the time).
There are lessons here, and not only for us salespeople. You may be tempted to be nice to the gatekeeper at your dream client so she will help you. You may be tempted to treat people who have no power to help you well because you know you will need them later. It’s much more important to be someone that is kind and courteous, to be someone that acknowledges and validates others just because it is who you are.
How do you treat people that can do nothing for you?
How do you treat people who reach out to appreciate you and your work?
How do you acknowledge and validate other people?
How do you treat the people with no authority or power to give you a deal?
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