I learned the secrets of being likable from a waitress named Debbie.
I was working in a high end restaurant as a cocktail waitress. The place was known for its steaks and was a hot spot for business men. The lunch crowd was made up mostly of suits and ties; a lot of powerful guys who wore nice watches and who all had sort of a new car scent about them.
The tip potential from a single shift was huge. Most of us were young, broke waitresses; we quickly got to know the customers and could spot the big spenders the minute they walked through the door.
You basically had one shot at gaining a customer’s loyalty; from the time they sat down until they paid their bill was your chance to make a big impression. If you did it right, they would reward you with a great tip and choose your section again in the future.
It was high stakes peacocking.
We would each try to be the most requested server. We were required to wear black skirts and white shirts, so we would make subtle improvements to our uniforms in the way of shorter hemlines, tighter shirts and push-up bras; the whole idea was to get noticed.
We would be charming, and would try different approaches to get them to like us.
Most of us were great at getting first timers to sit in our section, but for some reason they didn’t become regulars. In this type of an environment, regulars are everything.
This was the case for everyone except Debbie.
Debbie was a money maker, big time. I had heard about her during my training period. The server I was shadowing told me the fastest way to get fired is by messing with Debbie.
I had heard stories about her. Customers would forfeit available tables in other sections and wait at the bar until something opened up in her area. She had most of the big spending customers as her regulars. The bartenders and staff loved her; she was the queen of the kingdom.
I finally met her two weeks into my job, and she was not what I had expected.
I had imagined her to be this super model look alike with a tiara practically welded to her head. Going off of her incredible reviews, I had drawn her very differently in my mind.
She was from Tennessee. She had long wavy brownish hair that she pulled back into a messy pony tail. She wore no makeup, had on a regular length black skirt and an oversized men’s button down white shirt. She was not what I had expected.
She was the girl next door.
So what was it about her that connected so powerfully with everyone? It wasn’t her looks or her sex appeal; Debbie’s magic was her people skills.
I studied her. Seriously, I watched her like an educational film. I wanted to learn her secret. I paid attention to her body language, listened to her tone of voice and dissected her interactions with the customers. I asked people why they liked her so much, and I was able to piece together the anatomy of her social gift.
- She was easy. She didn’t need anything in the way of approval from anyone. She didn’t have any expectations of people. She maintained her own self esteem.
- She let you be you. You didn’t have to edit yourself around her or apologize for your opinions. You could talk to her openly about anything.
- She heard you. There’s a big difference between listening and hearing. She had the ability to interpret what you were trying to say, and understand where you were coming from.
- She refused to trash others, ever.
- She cleaned up her messes. If she made a mistake, she owned it.
- She was comfortable in her own skin. This was a big part of her charm. She liked who she was, felt good about herself.
- She was warm. Debbie was like the sun; she was warm and welcoming. People would feel good being around her.
- She had no expectations. She didn’t do anything with an agenda. She didn’t manipulate people or situations.
- She was real. She wasn’t trying to be anyone or anything; she came as she was.
- She liked people and understood human nature. Debbie would often say you can’t have a beautiful garden without fertilizer. She knew that people could be ugly and give you crap in life, but the key was not letting it make you hard or bitter. Whatever was thrown at her in life was added to her garden and made her more beautiful as a person.
Debbie was popular because she was real.
She was honest; everything about her was hers. She didn’t alter herself to impress anyone. She didn’t need validation. Being around her was effortless; she didn’t need your constant approval, she didn’t bring along drama and she accepted you exactly as you were.
She required zero maintenance.
There are so many copies and fakes in the world; people want the genuine article. It doesn’t matter how shiny a piece of glass is; when you put it next to a diamond it loses its luster.
I learned you can’t create who you are and try to pass it off as an original; at best you’ll be a good forgery.
Debbie was the real deal; she was the diamond.