Sunday, November 30, 2008

You Can't Please Everyone. That's OK.

I once heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. Well I’d like to add a second definition: trying to please everyone. Trying to make everyone happy ranges from difficult to impossible and the only guarantee you have is that you’ll wish you never tried. We face this problem with leaders, clergy, business owners, managers and even with our friends and family.

The bottom line is that we’re all unique – for better or for worse – and therefore the one-size-fits-all mentality rarely applies to real life situations. To further complicate things, just as there are some folks that are easy going and easy to please, there are others that are downright grumpy and find fault with everything. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle where we have reasonable expectations and as long as an effort has been made to meet those expectations, we’re satisfied.

So what is one to do? Give up? Live in a cave? Of course not. You simply need to set the expectation that not everyone will go along with what you plan/say/attempt/etc. If everyone does go along with it and they’re happy, then great. If they don’t, you’re not surprises, or worse, disappointed.

Politicians deal with this each day. Sometimes they start with 40-50% of their electorate in opposition to them. Additionally, they have factions within their own party that voted for them not because they were the best choice, but because they were a better choice than the person from the other party. This is true for anyone in any position of leadership or authority and the higher you rise on the ladder of success, the more people will oppose your ideas, actions and decisions. Even if you have two or three folks working with you, you’ll have times where you make a decision that one or more of them may disagree with.

The trick for handling this is doing what’s best for the group or the organization that you’re responsible for pleasing. That’s a bit of a loaded sentence so I’ll give some examples. If you’re the leader of a church or ministry, you need to do what’s best for your church as a whole so that it can survive and thrive. Sometimes it’ll upset the majority, but keep in mind that the number one goal of a church is to succeed.

With family and friends, things are a bit tricky because pleasing the majority can mean that someone with different tastes and interests might feel a bit left out. Again, you need to do what’s best for the group so things like selecting a date or set of dates for an activity have to be based on the majority the first time and then cater to the minority that couldn’t make it, yet is still interested, the next time.

Anything that costs money needs to consider the majority as well and what affects both ends of the spectrum. If someone in the group has expensive tastes that the majority of the group can’t afford, then it makes sense to pick a more moderately priced activity or accommodation. On the flip side, if you’re planning a trip to a particular destination such as a foreign country and one member of the group can only afford to travel to the nearest major city, then he or she might need to wait until the next trip.

Family and friends are more difficult to deal with because the good of the group often translates to something for everyone. As a picky eater, I’m often the most difficult to please when selecting a restaurant but I often put the responsibility on myself to eat beforehand or find something I can customize on the menu to meet my tastes. With that being said, if I were on vacation with friends or family and had to do that at every meal, I’d be a bit annoyed. But it wouldn’t be fair for me to expect everyone to forgo their favorite meals to meet my needs by eating only at places I liked, so everyone needs to understand that everyone has to give and take.

Trying to make everyone in a group happy can be challenging and not an absolute necessity. It’s up to you to judge your own situation and determine what the best course of action is. Just keep in mind that there are people that have become extremely successful by only pleasing a slim majority of their intended audience.

[from Overnight Sensation by James]

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