Familiarity breeds complacency

Posted: 24th May, 2021 in Customer Service, Sales , Tips & Tricks, Training and mentoring

How many times have you been in a situation where the other person came across a little too cocky? They lacked a sense of empathy? You felt like a number? They spouted off information without checking the details and oblivious to the fact that they could actually be making a mistake?

I am sure we all have experienced scenarios like these. One could argue these things happen. We’re human. Everyone has bad days and can make mistakes. But how many people stop, think and pay attention to what they say?

The word “complacency” comes to mind every time. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it can be described as “a feeling of calm satisfaction with your own abilities or situation that prevents you from trying harder…”

So how does it happen? And how dangerous can it really be?

Rather like learning to ride a bicycle, when we take on something new, we begin feeling a little overwhelmed and consciously aware we have so much to understand. As we start to learn, everything becomes familiar and our confidence grows. We’re still aware that we are in discovery mode, so we pay attention. The more comfortable we get, the more competent we become.

Over time, we do things without thinking – just like riding a bike. And rather like when we buy a new pair of shoes, a watch or anything else, we pay attention and take great care of it for the first while. But after a while we take it for granted.

Working on autopilot can be a good thing. It can take up less energy, it’s less stressful and we can do things more efficiently. However, there is a downside too.

It’s natural to realise we can all get to a point where we can stop noticing what’s going on around us. This is when we are in auto-pilot and where complacency can set in.

As Jay Mullings, renowned screenwriter and director once said “Complacency is man’s biggest weakness. It creeps upon us when we least expect it”. No one is above it.

There are so many angles to it when it comes to dealing with customers. Just because we’re familiar with what we are doing, we expect everyone else to be able to keep up when we provide information. And when they don’t get it, we might even think they are not listening.

We can often talk in jargon. And just because it’s’ obvious to us, we forget others might not understand. This can cause us to come across as a little aloof or perhaps condescending and we may not even notice.

Sometimes we will hear the same story several times.We might even develop a “I’ve heard it all before” attitude. We consider it as an excuse and we might become a little immune to it, losing all sense of empathy. 

Sadly, this endless cycle has a knock-on effect. Ultimately communication breaks down, we make mistakes and it can wedge a gap between us and the other person.

I am reminded how fragile it really is, when I think of the words of the Canadian Author, Jeremy Gutsche “Complacency will be the architecture of your downfall”.

We need to accept that complacency is within arm’s reach of all of us. We need to pay attention to what we are doing on a daily basis to avoid it. We need to learn to stay humble and keep an open-mind to realise anyone of us can make a mistake, and that includes us no matter how good we think we are.

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