I recently finished reading a fabulous book…Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success in Work & Life, One Conversation at a Time, by Susan Scott. The central premise of this book can be summarized with this sentence: “Our work, our relationships, and in fact our very lives succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time.”
I’ve mentioned this book before, as well as an experience that resonated with me. Another experience has happened that demonstrated the power of just one conversation. One even more powerful. I wanted to share this story with you.
I have a morning ritual where I stop in a local coffee shop about 6:00 AM or so and order the same thing…a medium macchiato. The regular barista knows this…and usually has my order going before I’m halfway through the door.
However, once a week, there’s a fill-in barista. He doesn’t know the drill yet. In fact, he has a behavior that has really annoyed me. It so much irritates me that I’ve been socially blocked from chit-chatting with him with the routine small talk.
Each time that I have ordered my usual from the fill-in barista, he has given me this same rap… “Now, you know that our macchiato is not like the kind that you get at Starbucks. We don’t give you the vanilla syrup and caramel sauce. That’s a caramel macchiato. You know that, right?” Five times! He’s told this same rap to me five times!
I listen patiently, but I’m annoyed inside. Silently I say, “Look pal, I know this. I’m here every morning. You’ve told me this before. I think I know what I’m doing, and I would NEVER order a coffee with syrup in it!” I leave the shop muttering.
Last week, I was telling this story to a friend of mine.
My friend: “You know what, that kinda sounds like Nick (not his real name). I believe he works in that café. In fact, that IS Nick…and you know who he is too.”
Me: “I don’t think so.”
My friend: “Yeah, you do. Remember Ben’s play that we saw a few years ago? Remember that awkward-looking young man who played the soldier wearing sunglasses? That was Nick.”
Me: “Ummmm…vaguely familiar.”
My friend: “Yeah, Nick has Asperger’s Syndrome. That repeating thing that he does with you…that sounds like it might be some Asperger’s quirk.”
Me (Stunned and chastened by this revelation): “Ugh…you’re kidding!”
Yesterday, Nick was filling in at the café again. Thankfully, he doesn’t give me the macchiato spiel this time. I dive into the conversation:
Me: “Is your name Nick?”
Him: “Yes it is!”
Me: “Were you in one of Ben’s plays a few years ago?”
Him (Beaming!!!): “Why yes! That was four years ago. How can you even remember? I was wearing sunglasses.”
Me: “Yes, I remember you.”
Him (With his hands crossed over his heart): “I can’t believe you remember that. That’s so great! You don’t know how happy that makes me feel!”
Me: "See you later, Nick."
Him: "This is incredible! I really can’t believe it."
Truthfully, I don’t think that this exchange will alter the course of my life…or Nick’s. But it’s certainly changed our relationship forever. Without question. And it took ten seconds.
Just one conversation.