I’m writing this from a Doctor’s waiting room. When I approached the desk, I told the lady behind the counter a quick joke. She immediately changed body language, smiled broadly, and gave me what I needed. I’ve watched several other people shuffle up to her, mumble out their names, and look blankly until the woman executed on her program. The results were very different than mine.
I look for this all the time. Sometimes it’s exciting. Other times, it’s frustrating.
The First Rule of Systems
Systems exist to remove a lot of rethinking. That’s why there’s a system. Think about driving. It’s a system. You don’t want to jump out on the road and realize there are no lines. You need the lines. You need the agreed-upon rules. This cuts down on a serious amount of thinking.
The Consequence of That Rule
By removing the need for rethinking, we retard the proclivity for people in a system to think creatively. There’s a reason why cash register attendants say the same thing. They’re trained to do so, in case saying the off-the-cuff thing lands one in trouble. But, should a problem arise, those same systems tend to restrict how the person trained in the system will think.
How This Impacts You
Quite often, we find ourselves operating outside of a system, or in ignorance of a system, or without the appropriate syntax to properly execute within someone’s system. We know what we know. We know the desired outcome we want. We just don’t know how to say what the other system’s participant(s) need to get our outcome.
An example: I went to the bank yesterday with Rob Hatch. We wanted to open another business account for Human Business Works. The person made us wait 15 minutes (first annoyance, but hey, it happens. In an empty bank, we waited 15 minutes). Then, they asked us for “documents,” as if this term meant something very set, very understood. We asked for which documents, and the answer was a bit vague. I lacked the syntax to understand the person. She lacked the ability to talk off-script to help me know what would get our needs met. I walked out frustrated about 10 minutes later, with no new account.
The real gold, it turns out, is in rapidly assessing systems, and then doing one of two things: jolting someone free of the syntax of his or her system, or mimicking the syntax to achieve the desired result. Either one works in getting a result, at least most times. I suppose it depends on the severity of the outcome whether or not you should attempt to jolt the system or mimic the system. But these are the two kinds of “hacks” that seem to work the most often.
In both cases, confidence helps. The more you can act with confidence, the more people assign a value of trust to you (whether or not you deserve it). In both cases, empathy helps. When you approach your goal from the other person’s perspective, you achieve a faster route to reaching your goal. In both cases, having your desired outcome clearly defined helps, though in mimicking, it’s important that you understand the “syntax” (the language and order of that language) to get your needs met.
Do You Hack Systems?
I think that people are often dissatisfied with their interactions with others because they didn’t realize that these types of efforts were even an option. It’s not that you do this all the time. There’s no value in breaking something in the system at McDonalds. It works better when you let it stay focused on its system. But it works excellently when you have a larger issue, such as a customer service issue with a product or service. If you need your car dealership to fix a warrantee item and they’re fighting you on it, you need to hack at that system.
What’s your experience with this? Do you experiment with it? Do you see your communications skills and your demeanor as tools to achieve your needs? How does this work in other media, such as online?
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