My older siblings and I have a favorite memory of our paternal grandmother.
Toward the end of her life, we all lived two hours from our grandmother’s mountaintop home. In our individual turns, we’d drive up and right at about an hour after arriving, our grandmother would say, “Well, thanks for visiting!” With that, we were dismissed for the two hour drive home.
I assure you: While a lot of grandmothers would do such a thing out of fear of overtaxing her grandkids, this was all about my grandmother’s energy and attention span. And we loved it. Never once did a one of us have to worry about overstaying. She was very clear about what she wanted.
I was reminded of just how relieving clear and direct communication can be a few weeks ago when we took a dear friend – who was in town for our first-ever in-person meeting after years of virtual friendship! – to one of our favorite restaurants, bloom.
Back when I proposed to Theresa there in 2019, they didn’t accept reservations. They made an exception to accommodate the beginning of our engagement. During this recent trip, though, we learned that reservations had become a thing when they reduced their already minimal seating capacity for greater pandemic safety.
As you might guess, we didn’t have a reservation.
Being both early – it was only 5 – and lucky, there was one table left. For the moment.
As we were being seating, our server, from behind her mask with her thick, expressive eyebrows setting the tone, let us know that our table was reserved for 7, giving us plenty of time – nearly two hours – for a leisurely dinner.
And then I ordered everything.
It’s a tapas-style restaurant and everything looked so good and anyway, that’s what happened. Plate after stylized plate came out and we tasted our way through charcuterie and marinated olives and hummus and an unbelievably delicious salad grown on a friend’s urban farm and… you get the idea.
Twenty minutes to 7, our server again returned, this time offering to put in dessert orders or attend to anything else we might want before we released our table to those who had cleverly reserved it ahead of time.
She, the server, was clear and direct. We knew exactly what she needed and we also knew that she was absolutely committed to giving us the best possible experience she could while we were there.
She could have – many of us would have – skirted the reservations issue, hoped we would be brief diners of our own volition, dealt with the tension of needing turnover to happen on a particular schedule, and risked us feeling rushed and under-valued if the 7pm clear-out time was communicated later in the evening.
That’s more of our cultural norm, though: Skirting communication, hoping people will infer our meaning from scanty details, I mean it should be obvious that I meant X when I sorta kinda said Y!
What discomfort are we creating for ourselves – what potential miscommunications are we setting the stage for, though – when we don’t say what we mean and share what we need?