Scrupuli

blunt essays with sharp points

Out Of Kindness, Play Dumb

by Scrvpvlvs
Nov 11, 2010 6:43 AM–Sometimes the nicest thing you can do for others is refuse to cooperate.

When patrons and employees of a restaurant franchise in my area want the corporate office, they ask at a restaurant for the number. Sometimes the restaurant manager mistakenly gives them my company's number. (It's an easy mistake; theirs ends 0888 and ours ends 0088.)

The trouble comes when my kind receptionist gives the caller—who has a real and urgent problem such as a missing paycheck or a case of food poisoning—the right number. This positively reinforces the mistake. Any restaurant manager that makes the mistake gets to know the wrong number from memory, and continues to supply it. Over time, we get more and more phone calls for the franchise. This represents frustration and a waste of time on the part of the callers and my receptionist.

The kindest thing to do is never, ever, cooperate with the caller by giving the right number. Instead, we play dumb. Callers push the problem back on the restaurant manager. The restaurant manager soon gets to know and give out the right number. The result is less frustration and less waste of time, both ours and future callers.

This principle has many applications. Before you offer help and advice in a situation, consider whether the kindest thing to do might be to play dumb.

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