How To Get What You Want

Ask for it.

Novel, I know. But in general, the person who cares most about your happiness is you. And the person who knows best how to make you happy is you. So how do you expect to get what you want if you don’t tell other people what it is that you want?

Everyone is self-absorbed–the universe revolves around each of us. While you shouldn’t have to express your wants or needs in a perfect service experience because other people will predict them and cater to them before you even recognize your wants or needs, most of us don’t have the luxury of constantly existing in those perfect service experiences.

I’m always surprised by stories about supposedly bad service that go something like this: “This restaurant/airline/hotel was so bad. I didn’t like ____, and it should have been totally clear that I didn’t like ____. They should have done something to fix it, but they didn’t! They suck so much.”

What did you expect to happen? And why didn’t you express that expectation? I have found a lot of success with bringing up problems to the appropriate person and then also expressing what a solution that would be satisfactory would be.

Here’s a recent example from my life: I stayed at a hotel that was situated on top of a pub and was assigned a room on the first floor. I did not realize that this pub had live music until 2am. Starting at 9pm or so, my room was throbbing to the sound of the music, and even ear plugs did not help. I was not happy because I was exhausted and wanted to sleep and could not.

Now, I had two options: 1) I could have done nothing, stewed in my room, not gotten any sleep, and written nasty reviews on TripAdvisor/Yelp/Flyertalk/my blog after the fact or 2) I could have gone down to the front desk, told them the problem, and suggested a solution. I chose number 2.

First, I asked if they had any rooms they could move me to. They did not as they were sold out. I then asked if they could instead book me a room at a different hotel. They said that they could not, but they could offer me a full refund of my room rate so that I could book another hotel room myself. I was happy enough with that solution, so I took it (note that the conversation was lengthier and did involve some amount of negotiation, but I’ll leave that to future blog posts).

By vocalizing what I was unhappy with and coming up with solutions that would make me happy led to a mutually beneficial result: I could book myself a hotel room where I could sleep, while the hotel avoided an unnecessarily bad review.

I will say that you generally shouldn’t feel entitled to what you want, but instead you should feel grateful for what you can get. Entitlement makes you less likable (so people are less willing to help you), and it leads to disappointment and more unhappiness. I didn’t feel entitled to a new hotel room–after all, I could have done more research about the hotel and objected when I checked in and was assigned a first-floor room–but I made it clear to the front desk what I wanted (a place where I could sleep, while I could not in the room that I was assigned).

This advice is not limited to dealing with bad service experiences. It’s applicable to nearly everything, including dating and getting a raise or promotion. But in general, I feel like everyone would be happier if they were more willing to express what they wanted.

2 thoughts on “How To Get What You Want

  1. jean-claude

    Your article is brilliant. I manage 2 small hotels and it’s amazing the number of times that the unhappy guests (all hotels get them) say nothing about their stay and then write nasty reviews after they have left. In almost every case if they had spoken to us about (say their room type etc) we would have done something to fix it for them. instead days after they have left. I receive the reviews which doesn’t really help the guest at all. Great article

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