Perceptions do matter

It happened to me again recently. I don't know why, but it seems that wherever I am, even if it's far away from my home, people stop me and ask for directions.

I was in Washington, D.C. on business. One evening, a woman on a bicycle stopped me while I was walking along Pennsylvania Avenue to Manhattan's Seafood Grill, in Georgetown. I was walking northwest, away from downtown, and she was riding the other way, and wanted to get to the National Cathedral. Being the helpful person I am, I told her to turn around, ride back on Pennsylvania until she hit M Street, then continue west on M until she hit Wisconsin Avenue, then turn right (north) on Wisconsin and keep going (and going) until she reached Massachusetts Avenue, and the Cathedral.

The same thing has happened before, also in Washington, and almost in the same place. One time, a couple needed to get to the Foggy Bottom/GWU Metro station. Another time, someone was looking for DuPont Circle. I've never asked these people why they stopped me, rather than someone else. The only thing I can think of is that I tend to have a purposeful look when I walk, that is I give the impression that I know where I'm going.

Perceptions do matter. The way we appear to others can affect how they in turn react to us, and the degree of confidence or comfort they have in dealing with us.

Customers and callers can pick up on your attitudes towards them.  What is that attitude?  Do you view them as annoyances and interrupters of your day?  Do you view them as ignoramuses?  I understand that callers can be a pain sometimes.  I understand that often they could have figured out the answer themselves without calling.   However, if you treat callers with impatience and condescension, it will only make things worse.

When I work with customers, I try to leave them more skilled than before they interacted with me, and more self-sufficient.   Also, even if the question they ask sounds stupid, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, because I realize they could have a legitimate reason for asking.  See my article "Your customers could be smarter than you think," at

Most importantly, avoid having an "us vs. them" mentality.  The caller and you have a common enemy: a technical problem that needs to be solved.  If you look at the caller as your ally, therefore, both of you will have a more productive call and a better relationship.