Who makes you happy?
I mulled on that question while dining in Over-the-Rhine. I heard a server approach a table with a genteel inquiry: “Are you pleased?”
A former server with seven years of schlepping plates and glasses under my belt, I immediately recognized that I’d never used those words while serving a table.
I’d asked before, Can I get you anything else? Do you need anything? How is your meal? and a variety of other vernacular meant to accommodate my diners’ whimsy. But never Are you pleased?
The phrase underscores the intent of a server’s job; as a server, you are hired to make someone happy. Whether they want heaps of crushed ice delivered every fifteen minutes, or their steak cut before it arrives at the table, a server’s job is to see to it every need and want is met with pleasure.
It’s a vocation of complete selflessness, and I think most servers forget that.
I started thinking about that expression, Are you pleased?, and my train of thought expanded it to many relationships.
Our closest relationships – maybe our best relationships – excel when we put the other individual ahead of our own needs or wants. It’s when we look at relationships as an opportunity of personal gain that dynamics get dicey.
This is not to say that the best relationships expect us to live in servitude to others, but rather that a perpetual state of mutual giving is the greatest way to grow a relationship.
Adam Grant appeared as the keynote speaker at this year’s Bold Fusion event in August. The youngest-ever professor at Wharton, Grant has written a book describing how the most successful people in life are givers, not takers. Give and Take uncovers the dynamics of Givers vs. Takers, and also Matchers, who strive to match giving and taking behaviors.
The book focuses on these exchanges in a professional capacity, but it’s important to think about these behaviors in a personal scope, too.
Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to be selfless. We’re forced to put everything out there, think about another person’s needs, and make the effort to meet those needs before our own, if we can.
Looking back on my relationships, the ones based on selflessness are the strongest. The connections that involved a level of reciprocity haven’t lasted as long or maintain diminished bonds.
But I know I could do better.
Like the server at Zula, I need to start approaching my friends and family with a sense of service, a goal of making someone feel happy and complete.
Are you pleased?