I’ve heard it said that being a grandparent is the best job in the world. You get most of the pleasures of being a parent without the responsibility. That became evident to me last weekend during church. Allow me to explain. Our kids and grandkids are always welcome to attend mass with my wife Joanne and me. We are pretty regular attendees at 8:30 mass, and sit in generally the same section (like a lot of people do). So my daughter Emily, her husband Pete and their boys Joe, age 4; Isaac, age 2 (almost 3) and Sam; age 16 months joined us, we were happy for the company. The boys are typically very good, but it is almost always easier for Emily and Pete to have grandma, grandpa or both there to help.
Going to mass is not a new thing for their family as they attend every week. This week the older boys were pretty good and well behaved, as Emily brought different items to keep them distracted and quiet. Sam was another issue. He was as wiggly as wiggly could be. When it was time to sit, he wanted to stand. When it was time to stand, he wanted movement, and let’s not even get started talking about kneeling. The normal books, toys and other distractions were of no use. Pete tried holding him and Sam didn’t want him. Joanne tried a number of different tricks (this was not her first time in church with a wiggly child) and none of those worked.
Sam wasn’t necessarily bad, he was just extremely fussy. The only person that had any measure of success in trying to have him be a little bit still and quiet was Emily, but he was still very wiggly. So instead of a wrestling match in the pew and causing more of a distraction to others around us, Emily walked Sam to the back of church. Several times she tried to come and join us in the pew, but Sam would have nothing of it. Later when I talked with Emily more about her time with Sam, she said that even though being in the back of church was better, he did not want to sit.
If you have ever tried to hold a wiggly 16 month old for any length of time, you know it is not an easy task. No matter what Emily did, Sam only was content when he was being held and walked by his mom. Sometimes as small business owners and managers, we encounter customers that remind us a little bit of Sam last Sunday in church. No matter what we offer them, no matter how much we try to please them, they will only be satisfied with one, totally unreasonable response. They do not see this as unreasonable, so what are we to do?
One option is to simply say no and risk losing the customer. And in some cases this might be the right course of action. Better options are to listen to the customer’s demands. I have found that if the customer has multiple demands (which they often do), then it helps to work with them to prioritize which are most important. This has multiple effects; it tells them that you are truly listening to them and it helps move them from an emotional state of mind to a logical state of mind. It is much easier to negotiate an agreement when all parties are thinking logically instead of emotionally. There is a lot more we could discuss here, but unfortunately I am out of space.
Back in the back of church, I think Emily was happy when mass finally ended and they could go back home where Sam had quite a few more things to make him happy and frankly didn’t have to worry about being quiet. As a grandparent, I empathized with her, but was inwardly happy that Sam really wanted her and not me.