My wife and I were having dinner at a Boston seafood restaurant that we enjoy, for the main reason that we’ve never had a bad meal there, or been poisoned.

I ordered fisherman’s stew, not sure why, although I do like the fantasy of being a fisherman. 

My wife, more sensible in these matters, ordered grilled shrimp and a baked potato.

Time passed. The waitress stopped by for a visit and to “explain the story about what happened to your dinner.” Sounded ominous.

Still, I enjoy a good story as much as the next fisherman.

“Your fisherman’s stew has been ready for some time, but someone stole the grilled shrimp for another table.” 

Not good news—I was especially discouraged about the stew: Was there something wrong with it? How come no one wanted to steal it?

More time passed. When the food arrived, the baked potato was cold, and the broth from the stew had evaporated—or, I could only hope, been stolen.

A manager stopped by to check on things. We told her the story about dinner. She looked sad.

“What would you like me to do?” she asked. 

We didn’t have anything particular in mind.

“All right,” she said. “How about we pay for your dinner?”

We didn’t argue. She still looked sad.

“Also, I’m going to wrap up two complimentary desserts—pumpkin cheesecake, and Boston cream pie.”

Completely unnecessary, we said. But we accepted the gift anyway, in the interest of cheering her up.

Tip: The next time you talk with someone about a problem, consider your approach.

Sure, if it’s your client, or your manager, or misc. executives, they’ll expect you to present some options. But in other situations, don’t be too fast to offer—or insist on—your solution.

Try letting the other person talk first.

P.S. Whenever possible, avoid fisherman’s stew. Substitute pumpkin cheesecake.

P.P.S. What’s better than pumpkin cheesecake?

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PAUL HELLMAN consults & speaks internationally on how to make your point—fast, focused, powerful.

Latest book: You’ve Got 8 Seconds: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World. Now available in print, kindle & audio.

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