There is a saying floating around online that “10% of conflict are due to a difference in opinion and 90% are due to wrong tone of voice.”
I was recently reminded first-hand, how true the statement is.
My friend decided to invite our group of 15 mothers to celebrate a birthday party at a small restaurant called Simply J’s here in Cebu. It is a cute little restaurant which was originally a house that was converted into commercial space when the road was recently widened. Since the structure was meant for residential use, not commercial, the acoustics of the place are very very bad. You’ll see why I am bringing attention to this later.
It was lunch time and the restaurant was packed. Since it was a birthday party, we were feeling festive and giddy, laughing and joking with each other as we usually do when we get together. It is a chance for us to unwind and as in any big group, we were noisy.
We were also sitting beside an equally large group of diners who were making an equal amount of noise we were. Since the acoustics of the place is very bad to begin with, I guess we were, collectively, making more noise than normal.
The manager of the restaurant, R, approached our birthday celebrant. I saw her speak to my friend and she looked grim and a little angry. She told my friend that if we could please be quiet since the other diners were starting to get headaches. Then she sat down in her chair with her friend and proceeded with her meal. My friend was shocked into silence because she felt like she was being reprimanded like a naughty schoolgirl (her exact words!). Conversation drew to a halt in our table. We couldn’t converse naturally anymore and were continually putting our fingers to our lips to remind each other to be more quiet.
What’s worst is the manager continued to give us angry looks all throughout the meal AND she didn’t approach and reprimand the happy giddy group sitting right beside us who were making just as much noise. Their group was lucky, they didn’t get the angry reprimand we did so they were able to continue their happy party in peace.
Her request, if delivered in a softer tone of voice, or even with a sheepish smile on her face would have made ALL the difference in the world.
Instead of making a request of her customers, it felt like she was making an angry demand.
As a result, our group felt singled out. The happiness of the group deflated. Instead we were affronted and we had to transfer venues in order to finish our celebration. We packed up our cupcakes and found someplace else to sing our friend a happy birthday.
It was an unfortunate incident in a restaurant that I had previously really enjoyed. Now, I am finding it hard to return.
It’s astonishing how different it could have turned out if this manager had just said it differently. As a group, we may have forgotten to mind the other diners due to our happiness to see each other. However, a gentle reminder would have sufficed.. and would have been MORE effective than an angry reprimand.
I was forcefully reminded that day, that I myself, should remember to put more thought not just into WHAT I say but HOW I say it.
WHAT I say may be the message, but HOW I say it will determine if the message gets across effectively.
Now, if only I can put the learning into action ALL the time that would be great.
Since we have our own business, I know how important it is to get feedback and I decided to give the owner the same courtesy I hope to get from my own customers.
After our meal, I decided to call the other Manager of the restaurant and calmly informed her of what happened. I even put a sing-song tone to my voice to ensure it doesn’t come across as angry. In fairness to V (the manager I called, not the one who reprimanded us), she apologized to me and told me to extend her apology to the rest of the group.