Complainers Get More Attention

Saturday was our one year anniversary. Cody treated me to a day at the spa, some shopping and my favorite: Sushi.

We were seated at a popular Sushi place in downtown Oklahoma City, next to a table with another couple. As we put in our drink order, and waited, and then finally put in our appetizer order, and waited, we noticed our waiter was a little distracted. Amidst our conversation we observed him as he waited on both our table and the one next to us. It was clear the man seated at the table next to us was not a happy customer. More than once he sent something back to the kitchen and even the manager came out and talked to him and his lady mid way through the meal.

First of all, he ordered steak. I mean, you don’t go to a sushi bar and order steak. Who does that? But that’s not what I’m getting at. As we watched this little episode unfold it was apparent that we had been forgotten.

Complainers get more attention.

Now, I’m all for good service, and good food, and I understand if you’re not satisfied with your experience you want someone to know. But from where we were sitting it didn’t seem like this guy was complaining because of the service. That waiter seemed to be at his beck and call. It didn’t look like his food was wrong–unless the steak tasted fishy (it’s a sushi restaurant!) what it looked like to me, was this guy and his lady were complaining just to complain. Every time the waiter would leave their table they would laugh quietly like the waiter was the dumbest guy in the world. This man even went so far to send back a knife that wasn’t to his liking.

Meanwhile, we’re trying to pay the check without a pen, feeling sorry for our poor waiter the whole time.

Complainers get more attention. Why is that? Why do we allow the naysayers to dictate where we spend our time and energy?

As I thought about this on the way home that night I realize the same is also true in our lives. When we find out someone doesn’t like us, what do we have the tendency to do? Spend the time and energy figuring out why they don’t like us.

I run into this problem a lot working in ministry. If I’m not careful I could spend most of my time with the people who are unhappy about something in the ministry and leave those who would bend over backwards for it in the dark. I learned a leadership principal early on that says to spend 80% of your time with your best players, customers, or volunteers and just 20% of your time with the complainers.

This might be a good concept for people waiting tables. After all, those complainers aren’t going to leave a good tip anyway. And if you leave your other customers to fend for themselves, they won’t either.

In the end, no matter how hard you spin your wheels to try to win over the complainers, while leaving your fans in the dust, you may never get there, and then you’ve lost both.

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