As if I hadn’t had enough the first day… I went back for more the next. My bike still wasn’t fixed. What choice did I have?
Some among you might point out that I could just take it to a bike shop, pay them some money, and be done with it… But there were two things standing in my way…
The first is that I don’t know any bike shops and it felt like a MONUMENTAL TASK to start looking for one. How much would it cost? Can they fix it straight away? Do I need an appointment? Will they inefficiently give me new parts when the old ones just need a very slight tune up?
The second barrier was that I felt I was on the verge of a breakthrough. Yesterday I merely ‘hoped’ for a breakthrough… this time I was going to make it happen! I had retreated, regrouped, and restrategised. I was in a much better headspace and full of my typical determination.
I’m going in…
Taking no chances I arrived before the shed opened. As I was parking my bike the gruff old man from yesterday barked at me in a short raspy voice.
“We don’t open until eleven”, he said.
“Ok”, I replied, a little startled. I checked my watch. 10:54… That wasn’t the best start I could have asked for but full of energy I absorbed the blow easily and remained unperturbed.
At 11:05, I decided it was safe to approach him again, and so I offered to help him move the bikes out of the shed. This is simple manual labour and I thought it might show that I’m eager to get to work. Without even looking at me, and barely letting me get to the end of my sentence before interrupting, he replied with a curt “no”, equally as short and sharp as before. Strike two… but I was just warming up…
Long story short, my new strategy worked! He eventually gave me all the help I needed, spending the better part of an hour problem solving and making sure all the miscellaneous second hand parts were working together properly. 3hrs after our first unpleasant exchange I rode out of there on a working bike!!
The trick was in how I responded to him. Previously I’d assumed that his gruff tone indicated that he didn’t like me, had no time for me, and just generally didn’t want to help. This time I decided not to take it personally. I ignored his rudeness and asked for his help persistently and cheerfully.
After he begrudgingly agreed to look at my bike I needed to make sure he had every reason to KEEP helping me. It obviously annoyed him whenever I asked a question, made a suggestion, or tried to ‘help’ in any way. So instead I assumed a ‘helpless’ role, doing nothing without his explicit instruction. I put my ego aside, assumed the role of a fool, and appealed to his sense of pride at being the ‘expert’. In this new role, he suddenly found me ‘likable’, and could assume his preferred role of ‘teacher’. Once he knew I was listening he broke his original silence, spouting tips and tricks, and telling me all the ways that most people typically do it wrong… “yes, mister grumpy guts”…. I would say with an appreciative nod…. By the end I think I saw something that could have been a smile. He even cracked a joke (in his old, rough, grumpy way).
In the end I got what I wanted. The change was in me and in how I perceived the situation. By setting my own boundaries and unashamedly asking for what I needed, we developed a good working relationship. What an amazing difference it made to assert myself early, rather than wait until I was at the end of my rope to ask for what I needed.