Sunday, May 24, 2009

Live from the General Mills Parkway

In all my travels, I had somehow never made it to Minneapolis before. This month, I ended up visiting twice in the last two weeks, training at two great companies there.

So one night, I was driving around this beautiful city on my way back from dinner, and found myself on the General Mills Parkway. Since public highways are rarely named after companies, my first fleeting thought was how ironic it was that a war hero had the same name as a big cereal company - and then, a few minutes later, that thought was disabused as I drove past the General Mills headquarters building.

This got me thinking. For years I've stared at the phrase "General Mills, Minneapolis, MN" on the back of my box of Cheerios and if I've thought anything about it, it was just a passing nod to another faceless corporation I purchase products from. But now I'm looking out my windshield at an actual building in suburban Golden Valley where lots of real people come to work every morning - not just Betty Crocker - and it's a change in perspective.

This same change in perspective can help your communications skills, particularly when you are a customer. When we are unhappy about something, we tend to approach it with a mindset of dumping on a faceless corporation. And somehow, if we push hard enough, that faceless corporation will somehow react to us.

In reality, the person on the other end is, well, a person. Someone who drove in to work this morning on the General Mills Parkway after eating his Cheerios and sending his kids off to school. And if we address this person as a person, with respect and dignity, we are much more likely to get what we want. So next time you deal with a company, pretend they are your neighbor down the street and see what happens.

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P.S. I was pleased to see this weekend that What to Say to a Porcupine was still a top 10 business humor book on Amazon, more than a year after its release, and its corresponding Kindle edition was ranked #6 in customer service. And my new book How to Tell Anyone Anything is now showing up in bookstores nationwide and starting to climb the charts as well. Thanks everyone!

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