Sunday, August 11, 2013

Say What You Mean. Mean What You Say.

But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
Matthew 5:37

But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.
James 5:12

For those of you not too familiar with the Bible, the first quote is Jesus. The second was written by James the Just, first bishop of Jerusalem, believed to be either the half-brother or cousin of our Lord, depending on your tradition. What you say when compared to what you do is pretty important, but we all know this to be true no matter what the basis of our ethical system.

Quite simply, this is a rant, born of my dealings with various kinds of contractors and salesmen as I continue to prepare for my move to another city. The Washington, D.C. area is filled with people who have money, but no time. While many of these people have multiple college degrees, they do not have intelligent hands. They need help with their lawns, home repairs, home improvements, and housekeeping. Over the past 25 years I have considered not only my own experiences but those of my friends and neighbors. Generally speaking the kind of people that provide these services can not be trusted to do what they say they will do. While the customer needs to understand the first law of project management, “Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick any two,” if those who provide these services exhibit even a shred of integrity, they will never be without work.

As it is written: Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.

The biggest problem in dealing with those who provide these services is just getting someone to show up. Many of them have the kind of personality that prefers to go fishing rather than go working. If the weather is nice or the fish are biting or they were out late drinking with their buddies, they just don’t show up. Some of them do good work for a good price. If you have the time and don’t pay them until they finish the job this is OK, but it sure sets your teeth on edge. Just tell me in advance, “I will be late tomorrow. I have something planned for this evening.” I won’t ask about your business and I won’t be concerned when you don’t show up in the morning.

Salesmen have a different problem. Too many of them are liars. Either they simply do not deliver what they promise or the use deceit to get you to bite the hook before you learn what is contained in the fine print. “Oh! You wanted a steering wheel with your new car? You have to buy the Platinum Package if you want a steering wheel.” People, tell the truth. If the situation is one in which you would want to hear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in advance, treat others with the same consideration that you would want to receive.

Do you want to know what salesmen are thinking about when they are looking at you like a hungry tiger eyeing a side of meat, check out this list of closing techniques. The names of many sound like the names given to various con games by grifters, “Who exploit characteristics of the human psyche such as dishonesty, honesty, vanity, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility, naïveté, or greed.” (Wikipedia)

Closing Techniques

I understand independent contractors and commission salesmen (who are really independent contractors) have a harder time earning a living than those of us who receive a regular paycheck. I also understand that they provide an irreplaceably valuable service in a capitalist economy, but for God’s sake, say what you mean and mean what you say. If you make a promise, move heaven and earth to fulfill your promise. People aren’t stupid. If you tell the truth and do your best, they will understand that you are not going to be perfect every time. Always make it a habit to deliver more than you promise. People will respect you. If you consistently deliver less than you promise, people will take their business elsewhere.

Oh, by the way. The words of this rant also apply to you and they also apply to me.

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