Ever notice how people will sit in the same chair when they go to a meeting, seminar, church, lunchroom, theater or especially at home?

We are all creatures of habit and we do not like to have our habits disrupted. Sometimes these habits become so ingrained that we forget they are merely habits or preferences. We actually become upset when someone sits in our favorite chair. We go to a seminar or workshop and when we return from the lunch break someone is sitting in ’’our chair’’ and we silently fume at their temerity. After all, that is ’’our chair’’. We even go so far as to turn habits and preferences into rules, laws and even religions. Then we forget that it all just started as an arbitrary preference or habit.

So what is the point here? Twofold.

Number one. In dealing with others we can pay more attention to their arbitrary habits or preferences. Then we can use that information. If we are building a relationship or looking to further negotiations with someone pay attention to their habits or preferences. Look and listen. Then take action to accommodate those preferences.

It can be as simple as letting them sit in the chair of their choice. If they always prefer to sit closest to the door and that puts them at ease then sit in a different chair. When you have guests in your home, instead of sitting in the one comfortable chair that is ’’yours’’ let your guests use that chair.

In business, if they like to start every meeting with shaking hands then be the first to extend yours. If they like to hug upon departing then be the first to open your arms. If they seem completely uncomfortable with hugging then back off.

It can also be more complex. For example, many years ago I sent an invoice to a client for a job well done where we met with considerable success. The client still showed up at my office to argue for a reduction in my account. I was willing to make some concession in order to preserve the relationship. I mistakenly thought the client was dissatisfied with my service and would not return. To my surprise, the client was back to engage my services once again. On that second piece of work the client argued about the bill again. I finally realized this was simply a cultural matter or in other words a habit or preference. From that point forward I would raise my bill by 10% and then provide an 8% reduction when the client argued and we continue to have a fruitful relationship. Or, I would prepare an invoice for a higher amount and then handwrite a reduction on the invoice before sending it out.

Some of my colleagues actually advised me that I should not ’’discount’’ my services and that the client should be forced to pay the full and proper invoice. To me, it was the same as sitting in a different chair. My willingness to pay attention to their habits, preferences and cultural norms ensured a long-standing relationship.

That is all for today. More on this will follow in a future posting.