Unenforced Rights Aren’t Rights At All

In Mental Toughness
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Went to a restaurant Sunday morning.

Anna ordered a meal, ate 20% of it, and decided that she didn’t like it. She asked me if she should send it back and order something else. I told her she should.

I’ve seen Anna do just that many times before, without consulting me, while I’ve never done it myself (probably because I only order stuff that I’m sure of; I don’t experiment when eating out).

The restaurant general manager stopped by our table shortly after and asked if everything was OK (a canned, lazy question that would be much more effective if it were, “from what you’ve experienced thus far, how can we improve your experience?”). Anna told the GM about the food she no longer wanted, and he took it away himself.

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He wasn’t rude or anything, but I felt he was thinking more about his food costs (a sent-back meal means wasted food that you aren’t charging for) than about making a happy patron.

***

A person in charge at a business is told that something about their operation is not… quite… right.

  • “Your front desk attendant, Mr. Doctor, wasn’t mean, but she also wasn’t very welcoming. “
  • “There’s nothing wrong with the way my order was made, but I don’t like it — so I’m sending it back, and I want to order something different. “
  • “You have rules posted, but no one’s following them, and y’all aren’t doing anything about it. “

The response I usually get from making such comments are probably the same response that you would get if you told people that you expected their good to be better:

They look at you like you’re crazy.

So, I’m not doing anything wrong, yet you have a complaint?

Their energy at that point communicates that the only problem they see is this one annoying customer in front of them who had the audacity to say something.

This post could be a business conversation, but it’s more than that — it’s a perspective conversation.

Businesses are comprised of people, and — hopefully — people working at a business share a similar perspective. And they usually do.

Problem is, that shared perspective is often one of, why can’t you just quietly accept this “good” product/service like everyone else?

Those same people who think that way at work think that way at home. And at the gym. And with their friends. And in whatever else they do.

This is how average spreads. It’s why average is so widely accepted, and why people look at you like you’re crazy (or, if they’re being polite, simply think it) when you question the good-enough status quo.

***

Getting what you want in life is not a privilege. It’s a right.

But here’s the thing: Rights, like freedom, are not granted at birth. They must be taken, demanded, defended and enforced.

If you’re not a fan of those verbs, that’s fine — just get used to accepting less-than.

If the good-enough product/service isn’t good enough for you, and you speak up, and they act as if you’re disturbing the peace, you have to have the audacity to speak on that, too. And to stand your ground when they push back against you (because the status quo never goes down without a fight).

This doesn’t apply just to ordering food at a restaurant. It applies to any change or challenge of what’s been acceptable, because change — from nothing to something, good to better — is disruptive.

  1. People don’t like being disrupted. But they need to be, if they’re going to change themselves or change what they’re doing.
  2. Sometimes, taking, demanding or forcing are required when asking doesn’t work.
  3. The more comfortable you are with asking for better from yourself, the easier it’ll be when someone asks it of you — actually, the less likely anyone will have to in the first place.

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