“You never get people’s fuller attention than when you’re listening to them.”
— Robert Brault
Ten cents is all it took to get her attention.
There’s a Thai food restaurant in Beaverton called Thai Flavor. We’ve been getting take out from there for years. It’s simple, clean, and the best thai food in the area. Well run by a sweet family, every time I go in, mother is waiting. She doubles as hostess and waitress, always making me feel welcome with a smile.
Late last night it was quiet when I walked in. A little girl started at me, or more likely, at my outfit. I was still wearing my gi, a martial arts uniform, from sparring practice so I looked a little different.
I’ve seen this girl many times before. She’s the owner’s daughter. Petite, with dark hair and glasses, she’s often at the restaurant. Sometimes she helps out, but often she sits quietly at a table reading while mother attends to guests. After her initial brief stare, Petite averted her eyes and darted quickly back to her table of books, lit by a single lamp.
Mother came over and greeted me with a big grin. We made smalltalk while I paid. Then, when she disappeared behind the curtain to finish getting everything ready, I looked around to take a seat.
As I bent over, I noticed something shiny on the floor. It caught my attention. Picking it up, I saw that it was just a dime. It wasn’t valuable to me. Ten cents won’t buy much, if anything.
Nonetheless, I started to put it in my pocket, but gi’s don’t have pockets. So I stood there, holding the dime. Finally, I turned and walked over to the table where the little girl sat reading. Holding out the dime, I said she could have it.
Her expression was priceless – a grin somewhere between amazement and incredulity. She took it, then danced over to the curtain from where her mother was returning, proudly holding up the dime. Mother explained to me later that her daughter has always been overjoyed when she finds pennies. She saves every one.
So, that little dime went into a little girl’s piggy bank, never to be seen again by me. What does that have to do with holding your customer’s attention?
Simply this. Because of a gi, I grabbed her attention. But with that dime, I held her attention.
I’ve seen this little girl many times over many years, and in all that time, she’s never spoken a word to me. Tonight, because I went out of my way to give her something she valued, the little girl stayed beside me. She talked with me. We conversed about many relevant things in her life – school, pennies, and the restaurant. Things that were important to her.
We all want more attention drawn to our lives and projects. We want people to listen to our ideas, give us their business, hear our stories, or even come eat in our restaurant. So, to attract their attention, we “put on a gi.”
We try to draw attention by making ourselves look different, attractive, or stand out in some way. That’s one way to draw attention. And it works. Briefly. However, it won’t last long.
To keep someone’s attention for more than a passing look is harder. If we’re honest; if we’re genuine; if we listen, we can get and hold someone’s attention for much longer by giving them what they want – our time and our attention.
Gi’s are expensive, and we constantly have to keep changing them otherwise people will lose interest quickly. But by giving our time, we hold their attention. We give and we get.
And it costs us nothing. Not even 10 cents.
Yesterday’s gift of time … was simply a dime.