After many years in the casino business, and having known lots of people in both my personal and professional lives, a handful of solid relationship-building principles have clarified themselves to me. Fortunately, these principles are universal in their application. They work whether the relationship in question is a personal or professional one, and their usefulness is evident after only a short while. The Golden Rule is golden for a reason; treating others the way you would like to be treated makes perfect sense, even if not everyone follows it. These simple principles are all tied to the Golden Rule at their core, but it seems that they just don’t come naturally to everyone. In Casino Player Development, however, the diligent use of these principles may well make the difference between failure and success.
- Be truthful. Always. Fortunately, this principle doesn’t require you to automatically blab everything you know about anything. It DOES, however, preclude you from telling an outright lie. For example, when you have to tell a guest something he or she doesn’t want to hear, find a way to say it that is truthful and polite without over-sharing. Say something like, “Sally, I am so sorry you weren’t invited to the VIP event we had last weekend. The qualifications for the invitation were very particular, and I couldn’t get permission to include you.” The first part is true because nobody wants to have this conversation in the first place, and the second would be true even if you didn’t ask for permission to include her, knowing her play didn’t meet the criteria. You didn’t have to tell her the criteria, and she understands now (even if she doesn’t like it) that her play is the reason she wasn’t included. See how that works? Even if you don’t really like Sally, you owe her an honest response. This applies to everyone.
- Accept people as they are. Don’t try to change people. They are who they are, each and every one of them, and it’s not up to you to decide whether that’s okay or not. Even the most difficult people are that way for a reason, and to build an effective relationship with someone, you have to know and accept who he is. You don’t have to understand why, but you DO have to accept it. I learned this lesson as a step-parent, and it’s one I have to remind myself to do daily. Sure, it’s my responsibility to help raise these children, but that doesn’t give me the right to ask them to be someone other than who they are. I can guide them to what I believe to be a better path and set them upon it, but ultimately it’s up to them to choose which one they’ll take. It’s the same with guests or co-workers, friends, significant others, and every other person with whom you interact in the world. As Popeye told us, “I am what I am.”
- Don’t take everything personally. Sure, sometimes that nasty comment was meant personally, but not every upsetting thing you hear was intended to hurt you. Think about how upset your guests sometimes get over the perceived value of their offers, and you can see how people can get all worked up over something that was never meant as a statement of their personal value. Don’t let that happen to you. People who are angry often lash out in unnecessarily hurtful ways, and you will almost certainly get caught in the crossfire at least once in your life. Keep your wits about you, take a deep breath and respond to the issue instead of the barb.
- Learn to anticipate the needs of others. I see this in action every time I walk into my local Walmart on a rainy day and note the umbrella bag display. In this case, as in so many others, there is a smidgen of self-preservation involved, as the floor will undoubtedly stay drier (and safer) if wet umbrellas are encased in plastic bags as they accompany their owners throughout the store, but it’s also a way the reviled retailer has anticipated customers’ needs. As a host, this is an invaluable skill, and it will certainly make you happier in all your relationships. It’s not even difficult to do. Note the things that matter to your guests and your bosses, then strive to meet their expectation before it’s been announced. (I’m pretty sure the cup of coffee my husband gently wakes me to drink whenever I have to get up early makes his day nicer too, but mostly because it makes my day start with more civility.)
- Place blame appropriately and tactfully. It is a simple fact of life that things will go wrong, and according to Murphy’s Law, it will happen at the worst possible moment. The aftermath can be so much better if the blame game can be handled with some diplomacy. In the workplace, a postmortem review is often used to learn from what went awry, and they can be difficult at best. I’ve been involved in a few that were excruciating, and I couldn’t help but think that they might have been more productive if they had been handled with a bit more grace. Don’t rail at someone for a mistake (or the results thereof), and try to remember that none of us is perfect, so bad things do indeed happen to good people. In fact, if possible, worry less about blame and put the emphasis on learning from what went wrong instead of who flubbed in the first place.
- Own your mistakes. This is such an integral part of a solid relationship that it could make or break one all by itself. When you make a mistake, it is ultimately up to you to take responsibility for it and immediately take steps to make things right. Don’t hedge, don’t play the martyr, just own it. If you forgot to make the reservation, tell the player the truth. Then, in your next breath, tell him what you can do about it. If you have a good reason for the error, include it if it is relevant, but don’t if it’s not. (To test relevancy, ask yourself whether it would make any difference if you were the one hearing about it.) People will learn that they can trust you if you can accept responsibility for your failures.
- Listen. I’ve saved the most important one for last. Because I’m a talker, this one is difficult for me. I always have something to say, but I have come to realize that I learn more when my mouth is firmly shut. Learning more about someone is an essential part of building a relationship with them, because it can’t be a true relationship if it’s all about you. Think for a moment of your best friend. Could you tell me about his or her favorite color, food, style of hat, animal or hand gesture? Sure you could. Now think about the last time you talked together. Was the exchange closer to a 50/50 in terms of time spent talking? That’s how you know those things. Whenever you talk with someone, talk WITH them. Take turns. Listen and learn. With everybody.
What relationship-building essentials have I left out? Tell us in the comments.