Prioritize Relationship Skills

Hall-Of-Fame baseball player Yogi Berra ordered a pizza and was asked if he wanted it cut into four or eight pieces. He replied, “Better make it four. I don’t think I can eat eight.” 
   Sometimes, however, Yogi made a lot of sense. He is credited with saying, “You can see a lot by watching.” And when we add listening to the watching, we can usually learn a lot. For example, we are all customers at various places. When we pay attention to what turns us on and off in these situations, and apply the findings to our own dealings with people, we can improve our relationships tremendously – whether in business, family, school, church, or any other aspect of society.
   For example, have you noticed that some organizations observe hours convenient for them but inconvenient for people wanting to do business with them? What about the organizations that advertise great customer service and then require you to punch in a dozen or so numbers (and still not connect with a live person) when you telephone to get some of this great customer service?
   On the positive side, some other customers and I standing in line at the post office lightened up and felt better when an additional employee entered and asked, “Who is here to pick up a package or just get some stamps?” Five of the eight people in line responded. The employee’s action shortened the wait considerably and quickly satisfied a group of people. 
   Another positive example is when a teller at a bank acknowledged each customer in a rather long line by looking at us and saying with an attentive smile, “Someone will be with you in just a moment.” The additional teller did come, but the acknowledgment alone helped the situation even before the assistance arrived.
   Yet, you and I both have been frustrated in supermarket lines when only three of ten check-out registers are manned and the employees checking out people fail to acknowledge anyone is present except the customer being assisted at the time. A husband and wife told me they were disappointed and surprised when they visited a church and no one welcomed them or spoke to them. (Of course, since I read this week that about 70 percent of all church members do not attend regularly, it is sometimes hard to differentiate between a visitor and a member – and it could be embarrassing to welcome a visitor who has actually been a member for a dozen years. But I digress.)  

   In business, customer relations begin with how management treats employees and how much management impresses upon employees that relationships are the lifeblood of the organization. In families, children learn relationship values from parents. In any organization, the leaders set the pace.
   In all situations, relationship values should come before anything else. Yet, many employees are taught technical skills, while management just assumes that everyone knows how to relate to others. Bad assumption. Most people are more easily taught how to use a register or computer, or to fill out forms, than how to deal with people.
   It has been well-documented in the business world that approximately 15 percent of a person’s success depends upon his or her technical knowledge and about 85% upon his or her people knowledge. Yet, people continually seem to lose sight of this statistic. Years ago, John D. Rockefeller said, “I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than for any other ability under the sun.” 

   When we watch and listen to what is going on around us, we can we help others and ourselves. That’s why Dell Computers, who moved its customer service and support department to a foreign country, is now bringing the department back to America. The company is responding to customer complaints about poor communication and lack of concern. A few years ago, a Dell advertisement stated, “To all of our nit-picky, over-demanding, ask-awkward-questions customers, we say, ‘Thank you, and keep up the good work!’ ”
   All of us can learn daily.
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 2500 events, can be contacted at or 865-436-7478. His books, including his two most recent, “People of Passion” and “Are We Communicating Yet?” are available in stores, at, and on 


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