Lucas Weismann

Small Victory: Social Engineering I – The Coffee Shop

Earlier today, I was working with one of my regular collaborators in New Wave, a coffee shop near Logan Square in Chicago this afternoon.  When we arrived they were playing some of the New Wave that inspired their name and decor.  After a few songs, the music changed to something vergin on Free Jazz that I enjoyed, but my partner did not.  After awhile she went up to the counter and asked them to turn it down so that she could work.  The barrista did as requested, but he did it grudgingly and then shortly there after switched the music to some truly appalling punk that did not deserve the vinyl it was pressed on.  In addition, he cranked the volume to a level that made it impossible for us to speak at less than a low yell.

After three or four songs, my partner asked me to see if I would do any better, since I tend to be a bit less abrasive than her in confrontations.  I agreed.  There’s something about low-quality punk, caffeine and the Adderall that I take to combat my ADD that made me feel as if I wanted to break things into tinier things.

I took a minute or two to think and here is what I came up with to improve my chance of success compared with our last attempt.

I asked the barrista who made my coffee.  She had an interaction with me and therefore has more of a personal connection to me than her colleague.
I phrased my request as follows, “Excuse me, I’m kind of embarrased to ask this; I’m trying to talk with my friends and I’m shouting over the music to be heard.  I get the distinct feeling that your other customers care less about my life than my friend and I do.  Could you turn the music down a bit so that they aren’t being bothered by us?”

She laughed and acquiesced and we were able to continue the meeting talking at a reasonable volume.

I figure the reason this worked is:

  1. I put the problem in terms of one I was the cause of not her, so there was no reason to be defensive.
  2. The problem was not one I was having, but one for other customers for which I wanted to find a solution
  3. That by employing my idea, she would get something (happier customers) rather than lose something (music)
  4. By making a joke at my own expense, I was showing a good-natured sense of humor and that I wasn’t complaining or thinking of myself as better than the other customers.

After this, the problem was solved, no one was in a worse mood and we were able to get some work done.

– L

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