Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

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What happens when you put meaning behind your words.

I had some very interesting requests over the more than 20 years I owned my restaurants. The strangest one came from a mother who was eating brunch with a large group of people one Sunday.  Her son, who was perhaps 6 or 7 years old, was running around the restaurant and had been generally disruptive for most of the time they were seated.

He ran up and down the aisles, pushed open the front doors without regard as to whether there were any people in the way. He hopped in between tables, disturbed other guests, and was generally ill-behaved in every way possible.  A busy restaurant is a dangerous place to be running in the aisles and jumping around – for a boy, patrons, and staff.  There is a continual stream of heavy plates with hot food on them coming out of the kitchen. My staff was having a hard time avoiding collisions with boy.  My manager asked the mother several times to please have her son sit in his chair or at the very least stay at their table for his own safety and the safety of others around him.  The woman looked at my manager, then glanced at her rampaging child with hopeless eyes, and shrugged. “What can I do?” she said.

Eventually, as the problem persisted, I finally asked my manager what was going on. He told me that they had all tried to get the boy under control.  I decided to go speak to the mother myself, the situation was getting worse not better.

I approached the woman, told her I was the owner and was concerned about the safety of her child. I then asked her to please keep him in his seat or at the least at his chair.  Her response me caught me completely by surprise.  In a very soft voice she said, “Can you please tell him? He won’t listen to me.”  I repeated her request back to her just to make sure I hadn’t misheard and she confirmed her wish that I speak to him.  While the request was shocking, I was more than happy to comply.   You see, I’ve never had a problem with saying what I mean – and making sure that people knew it.

I stepped in front of the running boy and wouldn’t let him pass so he had to stop.  I crouched down, looked him squarely in the eye, and said in a quiet, but very firm voice, “Stop running, go back to your chair, and do not move from it until your mother is ready to leave.”  I confess it may have been the same tone I used when I trained my 100 pound Akitas, but I do know for a fact my voice was quiet – and for a 7 year old boy – somewhat intimidating.  He quickly went back to his chair and did NOT move for the rest of their meal.  He would get up and down from his chair but he stayed right in his place and did not move away.  Every so often he would look to see if I was paying attention.  I would catch his eye, he would drop his gaze and not move from his seat.

You see if you always say what you mean and mean what you say, something incredible happens: people believe you – especially children and dogs.  It’s just easier that way.

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