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Would you be rude to me?

How many times have you been to a restaurant where something wasn’t all to your liking, but you still didn’t say anything? Even when the waiter came at the end of your meal to collect the signed check and asked if everything was good. And you still smiled politely replying everything was great, knowing damn well it wasn’t. How many times have you seen someone walking around with a smudge on their face and didn’t say anything?

I asked 30 people, why wouldn’t you say anything at a situation like the one above and all of them (!!!) said it’s considered…..that’s right….RUDE. Then I asked the same 30 people - think about it for a second, if you are the restaurant owner, if you are the one walking around with the smudge on your face, would you prefer they be rude to you or be “polite” and say nothing? You guessed it dear readers, all of them (!!!), all 30 of them said they would prefer to know. They would prefer others be “rude” to them.

So, then I asked one last question – would you be rude to me? And this is where I got really curious. 7 of them said absolutely, 18 said probably not, and 5 said no way, I would never tell you there is a smudge on your face. I broke it down and compared these answers to the relationship I have with each one of these 30 and the result was pretty amazing. The 5 who said no way are people I barely know. People that are on my LinkedIn contact list, but I don’t ever remember communicating with them nor where I know them from. The ones who said probably not, are people from what I call, my secondary circle in my network. They know me a bit. We have communicated in the past to some extent, but we are not on an ongoing relationship basis. And as you can assume by now, the 5 who said absolutely are some of my friends. People whom I am communicating with on a regular basis, we know each other and built trust throughout this relationship.

This got me thinking more about my relationships with my clients. Which ones of my clients will be rude to me and tell me if I screwed up or if there is something wrong. Moreover, in what level of our relationship with our clients do we get to a point where they feel comfortable enough being “rude” to us? If all 30 people said they would prefer to be called out, they would like their customers to tell them if there is something wrong, how can we get them, our clients that is, to that trust level, that level of openness where they will be like those 5 people of would absolutely tell me if I had a smudge on my face?

Yesterday I spoke with a friend about it and she said to me - well, we should all be contacting our customers more often and in an ongoing basis. After all, those 5 who would feel comfortable being rude to me are the ones I am in an ongoing contact with. But while this is absolutely true, you should be contacting your clients often and in an ongoing basis, how many customers have you had for a while whom you know for a fact, that even though you are communicating with them every couple of weeks, they will be with these 18 who will PROBABLY NOT tell you if you have a smudge on your face?

This is where I go to the basis of Emotional Relevance®. It is not enough just to be in touch with them. You simply must build a relationship if you want them to be rude to you. Use those three essential elements: Stand Out, Make an Impact and Get Personal. Add these to your mandatory ongoing communication with your customers, dare, open up and see over time how they open up back and how your trust level and openness increases. And how they move from that bucket of 18 to the bucket of the 5 who will, without hesitation, tell you when something is wrong.


“It is a wise thing to be polite; consequently, it is a stupid thing to be rude.”


It reminded me of a conversation I had with a former customer a couple of years ago. We met at a conference at a happy hour so there were bunch of people around us. Now, this guy was a customer of mine (the company I was working for at the time) for about 3 years before deciding to go with a competitor. We were catching up over a beer and a Coke Zero (sorry, I don’t really drink), sharing some family related stories and gossiping about some executive changes in the industry and towards around the last few sips of his now 3rd round of whatever IPA he was having, I decided it is OK to be a bit rude and ask: “Hey, by the way, I hope you are happy with your new provider, but I am curious – why did you leave us? We never really got to talk when that went down.” He looked at me, smiled awkwardly and said: “to be honest Alon, it was something to do with your project manager at the time. My team wasn’t really happy with her and one of my managers invited a competitor for a pitch and they were really nice, so we just went with it”. “I understand, for sure, just, why didn’t you call me to let me know there were issues with our project manager?” I asked back. “Well, I didn’t want to be rude”.

Here it is.

And so, I want to give you a small tool. A tool that not only will help you find out where you stand in your relationship with your client but will tap into all now famous, three elements of Emotional Relevance® (Stand Out, Make an Impact and Get Personal) and will trigger an emotional reaction by your client and will automatically increase the level of trust and openness between the two of you. Simply ask them……would you please be rude to me???!!!

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Insightful and thought-provoking Alon. I would hope that someone would be "rude" to me as I would be "rude" to anyone to save them embarrassment!

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