Day 331

The Waiter Rule: How we act when we don’t have to be nice

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Thursday, 9 October 2014 - Last Updated on October 9, 2014
Day 331

Day 331

It’s a common saying these days, with many variations on what is said, and the basic thing is: How you act towards people who you have no attachment to, or need to be nice to (like waiters), will show your real personality. While this saying immediately sounds true and good, the fact is, it has many layers to whether or not it is true.

Service with a smile – or not
For some people, the idea is that people should be nice to service personnel – be it waiters, security guards, or janitors. Ideally, this is because they are people, too, and should be treated as humans. However, we should take into consideration the following issues:

1) Are they doing their job?
There is nothing more frustrating than being a nice person while the other one is neglecting his or her basic duties – in this case, giving services. After all, they are still doing a job, and they should at least do it to the lowest acceptable satisfaction level of the customer. Does this mean, however, that we can be rude to lazy waiters and other such? Well, you don’t have to be – but you can always give your two cents’ worth by not giving them a large tip (or any at all, for that matter).

2) Do you want to remain in their good graces?
On the other side of things, treating service personnel as people can also give you unexpected extra care going your way, be it being led to the best table in the house, or something as simple as a better smile and pleasant demeanor coming from the doorman. However, not all people react well to pleasantries. In fact, many of them would rather you give them a good tip. In such a case, you should always consider reason #1: are they doing their job well enough for you to give them the tip they expect?

As you can see, being more objective about service given, combined with natural courtesy, gives you more of a chance of having better service in the same place in the future. However, you shouldn’t tolerate outright bad service – you are still a customer, after all.

How about those who can do absolutely nothing for you?
This is the litmus test for character: how do you treat people who absolutely cannot do anything for you, even in the way of service? Sadly, here in our country, the unfortunate are everywhere, from people begging at car windows, to the sad sight of former mountain dwellers now walking the streets of the city. Again, you should consider a few things:

1) Discern if they really are those for whom you should show respect.
Not all people in need are actually in need. In fact, many of them are part of larger “syndicates” that may have criminal aspects to them. In this sense, it’s understandable if many of the more jaded just brush off street people, and those who mean nothing to them. It’s a form of safety, after all.

2) Teach a man to fish…
Other people go further when it comes to helping those who cannot give back, so to speak. This is by addressing the issue head-on: offering jobs to those whom they see have potential. Now, for some of you reading this article, the obvious shortcoming of this approach is that you can only help so many people (or maybe even one person only). However, the fact is, help is being given freely. It may not mean much to the person helping out, but it will mean the world to the person who, before, had no way to give back.

Helping or assisting those who have no way of paying you back can be a challenge in itself, as you can see, since while it’s a good idea to help as much as you can, you should also be aware of how some people don’t really deserve your help. Would it help to think that it’s better for you to err on the side of caution? Certainly – but then, that is a personal risk that has no right or wrong answer. You should just be prepared either way.

How do you deal with friends who seem to be cruel to others?
Now, while you may have no problem with being courteous or simply neutral to people, what if you have friends who are outright mean? How do you make them reassess their actions?

1) Don’t call them out on it publicly.
The worst possible way for you to try to change the way a person treats others is to shame them publicly. This fails on two levels. On one level, it’s an issue with psychology: People who don’t care about those who can’t do anything for them naturally have ego issues, so shaming them usually only makes them even more adamant that what they are doing is right. On another, it’s also about the old idea that you should be careful about becoming the person you hate. If you try to shame someone into doing something your way, then you’re just stepping that much closer to being as cruel as they are.

2) Lead by example.
If you are serious about helping a person change his or her attitude, then you should lead by example – and this means being courteous and nice to people, within limits. Remember, there is a fine line between being a person of good character, and being a pushover. However, you don’t have to resort immediately to dismissive, even aggressively arrogant actions. As always, do weigh your options when it comes to reacting to people whom you need or want nothing from.

Seeing others
The challenge when it comes to treating others is being honest with yourself. You do have to address your own prejudices, and find your own ways of dealing with them. You should also be aware that you won’t be perfect when it comes to dealing with other people, and that the best you can do is to make sure that you are as fair as you can be – within reason.
In addition, you yourself shouldn’t put your own actions on a pedestal. If there’s anything more distasteful, it’s being good so you can prove to yourself that you’re a nice person, rather than accepting the fact that you should treat people fairly because they are people who have their own lives, just as you do.

In the end, the ability to treat those who mean nothing to you in a respectful manner is all about being a person who recognizes the fact that people are individual persons, rather than just another face in the crowd.

Photo: “Day 331” by Pascal, c/o Flickr.com

Richard Leo Ramos (73 Posts)

Richard Leo Ramos is a writer, editor, and pop culture enthusiast. When not working, he is a bass guitarist of the metal band Cog. He is also the founding "bar owner" of an online hangout for mecha anime enthusiasts in Facebook, known as Mecha Toys.


About Richard Leo Ramos

Richard Leo Ramos is a writer, editor, and pop culture enthusiast. When not working, he is a bass guitarist of the metal band Cog. He is also the founding "bar owner" of an online hangout for mecha anime enthusiasts in Facebook, known as Mecha Toys.

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