Updated: Jul 10, 2021
I thought I was charming. She thought I was annoying. I just wanted a late checkout and I was willing to pay for those few extra hours, but the desk clerk was not willing to entertain the idea. She was used to setting rules and having people follow them without question. My request was outside her rule paradigm. The problem was that we both had different needs. I needed some extra time and space. She needed to minimize her workload. Late check outs, it seemed, were a hassle that would cause her extra work and she would have none of it. Charm was pointless.
So how do you get your needs met when someone is standing in the way? It’s an issue that often comes up for successful people. Going head-to-head usually doesn’t work. One or both people involved easily can become annoyed or frustrated when a battle of wills occurs. In the case of the desk clerk, the longer I stood there trying to problem solve, the more dour and curt she became, making it clear she was not going to budge from her position. In the moment, I could feel my blood pressure rising and thoughts of “how dare she” start creeping into my thinking. Fortunately, I recognized this train of thought was going nowhere and charmingly thanked her and walked away.
If I had given up at that point, my need would have gone unmet. Earlier in my life I would have ignored my need then felt hurt and angry, often having countless imaginary rants to vent my frustration. This, of course, solved nothing and left me feeling powerless. Over time, however, I learned that wasting my psychic energy on futile conversations was not healthy.
There are always options. In the case of the late check out, I did some quick research and found the name of the hotel’s general manager. I called the operator, asked to speak with her, and surprisingly was connected right away. I explained my situation, made sure to acknowledge their standard policy, and offered to pay for the extra hours. The manager was understanding, mentioned how she was recently in a similar situation, and agreed to the late check out. She even waived any extra charge. It doesn’t always work out that way, but regardless of end result, I didn’t have to feel powerless.
As a solution-focused therapist for over 10 years, I’ve learned some simple steps to get your needs met when someone is standing in the way. Successful people use one or more of these strategies on a regular basis:
Every disconnect has a connection. Whenever possible, find common ground, and assess the other person’s needs. If you can connect and address what the other person believes is most important, they might agree to help you.
If the other person won’t budge, then calmly and charmingly walk away. You don’t know if you’ll need to involve them later on, so don’t burn bridges.
Prioritize your needs and look for options which might work to help you achieve the most important one. In the case of the late check out, the most important factor was being able to complete my work. I started brainstorming options that could make that happen. None were as ideal as the late check out, but they would have been OK.
See if there are others who can help instead. There is usually more than one pathway to a solution.
Even if you don’t feel it, be generous to the original roadblock. I did not throw the desk clerk under the bus with negative comments to her boss. That would have allowed negative energy into the solution and serves no point.
Give yourself permission to accept a different outcome. Even if you don’t get what you want, you’ll move forward from a position of empowerment and free yourself from those rant spirals if you choose to accept the outcome rather than fight it.
Keep in mind that when another person is difficult to deal with, it’s very likely they see you as the difficult one. Figure out ways to factor this into your solution.
The ability to problem-solve is a hallmark of a successful business person. Having your needs met in the process is critical for personal success. You don’t have to choose – you can do both.