A Tale of Two Baskets

I’ve worked with the public for many many years. Some people are nice and some aren’t. To help with the “not so nice” public, I created a simple mind trick that helped my team build relationships, change behaviors, and meet corporate metrics. 

Think back to the last difficult customer you’ve had. Maybe they were mean, rude, or condescending. Whether you were aware of it or not, you put this person in a category or a “basket” in your mind. If you assumed (consciously or unconsciously) that this customer was acting badly because they were an a******, you put their behavior in the Ass**** Basket or the A-Basket. 

Most of us sometimes think that people who behave like this don’t deserve to be treated with kindness or respect. Often we take their bad behavior personally, which leads us to do or say something we regret later. It’s normal human behavior to treat someone like they treat you. 

To help you deal with difficult people and irrational behavior while staying positive, you can create another basket in your mind called the Unwell Basket or the U-Basket. 

Assuming that bad behavior is caused by some sort of sickness- physical, mental, or spiritual, shifts your perspective. Just as you may tend to respond to a negative person by being negative, you naturally respond to a sick or unwell person with compassion and empathy.

Each time a customer comes in and is mean, rude, belligerent, or difficult, you’ll treat them a certain way depending on which imaginary basket you place their behavior in your mind.

You, like me in the beginning of my career, may be putting too many customers in the A-Basket that really belong in the U-Basket. This is bad for you, bad for business, and bad for your team. 

Remember, most initial judgements you make, can’t be proven one way or another. For example, suppose you have a new customer that rolls his eyes, taps his foot impatiently, and asks with an irritated tone, “How long is this going to take!?” 

You have no way of knowing what this man has been through today let alone in his entire life. He could be in the anger stage of grief. He could have malnutrition from a poor diet. He may be drinking too much because he feels hopeless most days. 

Maybe he’s not an a******. Maybe he’s a suffering human being that would act better if he felt better. Sure, maybe he is a total jerk. But since you can’t prove that, assume his behavior goes in the U-Basket.

 If you approach him from a perspective of being unwell, you’ll naturally treat him with more compassion. Your tone will be softer and your words will be kinder. You’ll feel better after the interaction and there will be less tension in the room. 

Your assumptions about customers, dictates how you perceive them and therefore how you treat them and ultimately to what kind of relationship you’ll have with them. 

The two baskets are a simple way to remind yourself to give people the benefit of the doubt. With practice you’ll have a full imaginary U-Basket and sparsely filled A-Basket.  

In the real world you’ll have more peace of mind, a happier workplace, better relationships, and a healthier bottom line. 

3 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Baskets

  1. Mary – it is far too easy to criticize, judge, label, those that we encounter on a day to day basis. Your words are a great reminder and the basket visualization will be helpful to try to live from a place of kindness, acceptance, and love. Thanks!


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