If you want to know the inside dirt on being a top-flight waiter, Waiter Rant is the blog to read. Yesterday he wrote about the stress of the Memorial Day crowd. I am always shocked by the insane and totally out of line antics this guy has to put up with, which is why his blog is so popular.
Some of the most stressful jobs are the ones where you have to negotiate among difficult personalities. You could be launching a rocket to the moon, but if everyone is getting along and working very well together, it’s might be less stressful, in the moment, than managing a room full of screaming airplane passengers who have been told their plane won’t take off that day.
My best negotiating lessons came in couples therapy, when my husband wouldn’t get his bike out of the apartment (we live in New York, in a tiny space). The couples therapist did not, as I was hoping, tell my husband to shut up and put his bike in storage. The therapist had us read Getting to Yes and then negotiate a solution we could both live with. (For those of you who doubt my negotiating skills, the bike is gone, but believe me, it was a lot of hard work, and I recommend that book.)
The most important part of negotiations is understanding the other person’s motivations. You could learn this by being a waiter, or any of a long list of service workers whose job is to read people in order to make them happy. (My friend is a hairdresser-to-the-very-rich and has the same types of stories as the waiter.)
But it takes a lot of years of being a waiter or a hairdresser to be great at reading people. You might do better checking out Speed Reading People by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger. These are people who have mastered the art of bringing the personality test to the masses. And in this book you learn how to apply the Meyers-Briggs principles to people you meet so you know how to communicate with them.
A lot of your workplace stress could be alleviated if you were better at negotiating — asking for less work, better projects, getting co-workers to stop annoying you, convincing your boss to listen — these are all negotiation points. So when you are feeling stressed, think about how to solve the problem through negotiation. And meanwhile be thankful you don’t deal with the customers on Waiter Rant.