“I can’t believe that you praised that da*n salad!” My colleague and engineering manager was furious. His team mate joined right in, “It’s one thing to be polite, but to go overboard like that!”
We’d just spent the whole day in a conference room at a Japanese customer’s divisional headquarters. My colleagues and I had flown in from India.
We’d then taken the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka. Then a local train and finally a cab to get to the village outside which their factory and offices were.
As we were scheduled to spend two days in discussions and negotiations our hosts had kindly arranged for lunch to be served in the conference room. Not just that, but they had accommodated our needs as vegetarians by preparing a special meal for us.
It was this meal that had made my colleagues mad! No strike that. It was my praise of this meal that had made them mad.
The meal that was served in rather large bento boxes had vegetable tempura (not unlike Indian pakoras) and a variety of colorful and green salads with sauces. Having spent the previous two decades in California, I found the salads to be exquisite—fresh, subtle and tasty.
My colleagues on the other hand found the experience most dissatisfactory—“as though we were chewing on grass” in their words. They ate the tempura and had politely made as though they were eating the salads, which were left largely untouched. I was oblivious of their travails whilst busily tucking in!
When we got started on the post-lunch session, our ever considerate hosts enquired how we’d enjoyed our lunch, whereupon I’d waxed at length how amazing it had been!
I must admit I like my food and do tend to get carried away.
By the time we returned to the hotel, my colleagues were not just hungry and grumpy but absolutely livid with me.
“Because of your dang praise, they are now going to serve the same da*n lunch tomorrow!”
And they were right.
My colleagues did eventually forgive me but never failed to share this story with anyone who was willing to hear it.
Nowadays we get a good laugh out of it and even share it with customers and partners, who in turn get to share their own stories.
Each of us have stories like this – personal and professional, sometimes funny other times poignant or even sad. Stories allow us to connect with others and build relationships. Business at the end of the day all about relationships.
What stories do you have? And find yourself telling frequently?
If you’d like to learn to be a great storyteller, join us at the upcoming cohort-based Success Through Persuasive Storytelling course.