Day 93. A visit to Starbucks reminded me to dust off some Dale Carnegie principles….

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 93.  Monday, June 27, 2011
This morning a friend of mine, “Melanie” announced she was engaged.  This piece of news threw me off—and not for the reasons you might suspect. 

I am a detail-oriented person.  I like to fit puzzle pieces together. 

Instead of jumping up and down or smiling ear to ear—I was struck by the irony.  I had just visited some friends two days ago.  They asked about Melanie and if she was engaged or married yet.  This is not a common topic of discussion so the timing of these events was fascinating to me.  But understand—all of these ponderings were going on in my head. 

On the bright side I did have the decency to smile and congratulate my friend. 

Somehow we got completely off topic and after ten minutes we had covered a variety of topics—none of which had to do with the engagement or the wedding. 

Later that morning I was standing in line at my favorite little coffee shop.  I was thinking about my friend’s engagement.  I realized I probably messed up with my low key reaction. I’m not the type to jump up and down with excitement – yet I felt bad that I didn’t for my friend’s sake.  I didn’t have 101 questions about the wedding—mainly because I was too focused on the irony that she was a recent topic of discussion.

Yummy cake pops from Starbucks.

I tried to see things from my friend’s perspective.  The fact that she told me immediately this morning indicated this was at the top of her list.  I wanted to find a way to make the day special for her. I decided to order a special pastry at Starbucks—something I order only on important occasions or when I really have a bad day….

I returned to the office with a cellophane bag with the special pastry.  My friend looked at me and asked, “what’s this?”

I replied, “this is a cake pop from Starbucks to celebrate your engagement.”

She smiled and thanked me. 

Later that afternoon Melanie said to me, “Wow! This pastry tastes great!”

I said—”so glad you liked it.  I joked with her saying I got the “Birthday Cake” version even though I know you prefer chocolate.  I just couldn’t bear to buy the “Rocky Road” cake pop to celebrate your engagement.  I wouldn’t want to jinx your marriage!”

Melanie smiled and said, “good thinking.”

The Dale Carnegie principles I usually forget to use is from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 9.  Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.
Principle 4.  Become genuinely interested in other people. 

When I realized my lack of enthusiasm and excitement for my friend I felt really bad.  I’m not a naturally boisterous, outspoken individual—nor am I the touchy, feely, hugging type.  I’m more the over-thinking, detail-oriented, stoic type.  But this engagement is a milestone for my friend and should be celebrated.  I did what I could in a sincere way to celebrate her day.  It wasn’t just a cake pop—it was the right cake pop for the occasion—a cake pop to celebrate my friend entering a new stage in her life—while also leaving rocky roads with challenging relationships where they belong… in the past. 

So my lesson to you—yes, there is one somewhere in this story…

There is a way to be yourself while also becoming interested in other people and making them feel important.  If you are anyone but yourself—neither of these two principles will work because your words and actions won’t be sincere.  When you take this approach you will find people will not only accept you, your quirks and imperfections—they will be drawn to you—because of your sincere interest in them. 

I hope this makes sense. 

Housekeeping / Notes
Mark your calendars!  This Wednesday is Guest Blogger Wednesday! 
If you missed last Wednesday’s guest blog post by Esteban, here’s your chance to catch up.  Click here.

If you’ve been busy or are new to the blog, I have a handy archives section set up for you to catch up on past blog posts.  Click here.

Day 89. It took 10 years for me to figure this out. Learn from my mistakes.

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 89.  Thursday, June 23, 2011
You might remember the Day 81 entry where I sewed the most fabulous pillow because Seth and Stefano gave me the encouragement to try.  Well a lot has happened since then….

Feed the Fire of Enthusiasm

I am up to 6 finished pillows, 2 pillows-in-progress and a potential wall hanging….This does not include the projects in my mind that are just bursting for the opportunity to come to life….I guess you could say I am the mad scientist of sewing… or at least pillow making.  Even the other night I had a dream I sewed myself into a pillow….

My enthusiasm led me to approach my associate Roberta, who was buried with a pile of paperwork this afternoon. 

Smiling Daffodil:
“Excuse me Roberta, before today is over will you show me how to sew this fancy yarn and cording?”

“Oh my!  Yes I will!  Your grandmother would be so jealous of me, Smiling Daffodil!  I’ll be happy to show you.”

So this evening once our regular boring “office” work was complete, Roberta pulled out the special sewing machine foot for sewing yarns and other specialty fibers.  Roberta had a very long, stressful day yet she was eager to teach me this new sewing technique. 

She shared tips and invited me to use any of her specialty yarns and fibers.  (Her willingness to let me use any of her materials always stuns me.  She never says you can use this material but not that.  Or here, use this cheap, ugly material—the other material is too expensive for you to use.)

She was absolutely enthusiastic and excited to teach me.  As I listened to Roberta, I couldn’t help but think of Dale Carnegie’s principles.  I didn’t set out to use a principle but somehow I unlocked the magic of a particular principle:

From How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 4.  Become genuinely interested in other people.

I had taken the time to become interested in sewing—and what really made the difference is that I involved Roberta in this process.  By taking interest and asking Roberta for help, advice and tips—both parties got what they wanted.  I wanted to learn some new techniques, feel creative and succeed in my sewing endeavors.  She got to share her expertise with me.  She got to feel important. 

The outcome is greater than meets the eye. 

I am happy because I get to create.  I am also happy because she sees I am happy.  (Actually, the entire building senses my explosion of happiness and benefits from it).

She is happy because she gets to teach an associate—she gets to feel important.  She is also happy because she sees me happy.  (Actually, the entire building benefits from this).

The bigger picture is a happier work environment, greater productivity and greater profitability.  

So remember, although you might be capable of learning something on your own through trial and error—sometimes it serves everyone’s interests if you ask for help from an expert.  More often than not—someone is willing to teach you—they derive their feeling of importance by being considered an expert.  You get the benefit of learning how to do something the right way.  The result is relationship building, discovering new opportunities for making money and more importantly your own happiness.

Housekeeping / Notes:
Don’t forget to read this week’s guest blog post by my buddy Esteban.  I think his blog demonstrates the great opportunity parents have to teach their children.  Click here to read.

Day 73. Wow! My friend “Batman” used Dale Carnegie’s principles to help the Smiling Daffodil

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 73.  Monday, June 6, 2011
I chatted with my friend “Batman” today.  I told him that I was frustrated with myself because I got to work so incredibly late today.  I explained that although no one at work complains—it still bothers me. 

Owl paperweight....(A metaphor for night owl with needless weight on shoulders)

I work 8-10 hours a day and I don’t take lunches.  It was just last week that management was thrilled with a marketing campaign I put together. 

Batman listened attentively and asked an interesting question. “Do you think it’s society’s pressures that you work certain hours?  It sounds like the job you have is flexible enough that it doesn’t matter.”

I can’t explain it—but somehow those words were like a rope to pull me out of my box.   I felt better.  I place very high standards upon myself—that are not always level headed, reasonable or balanced.  Batman reminded me that I put in the same hours—just at a different time than most.  No one complains at work—in fact they continue to tell me they are pleased—which is far more than I received a year ago when I was putting in far more time into work and playing far less.  Back then a blog was the furthest thing from the Smiling Daffodil’s mind.

The Dale Carnegie principle used in this story is from How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Don’t fuss about trifles.

The Dale Carnegie principle my friend Batman used is from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 4. Become genuinely interested in other people.
Principle 7.  Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves.

I am blessed to have a job that is extremely flexible—I earned this privilege because I have put in many hours.  There’s no sense in worrying about “being late” when everyone knows I’ll stay until the cows come home, will work weekends, etc. 

The lesson I want you to take from this story—sometimes standards you place upon yourself are unreasonable and defy logic.  I am well aware it’s difficult to break these patterns of behavior—but do your best and try.  Don’t worry so much about trifles—just focus on doing your best. 

Also—take “Batman’s” approach in this story to reach out to friends, family, customers and associates.  Sometimes all a person needs is a ready and sympathetic ear. 

Thank you Batman!

Housekeeping / Notes:
Mark your calendars!  Wednesday is the big day for my guest blogger!  His story rivals my blog posts!
A special thanks to “Scrapbooking Queen” for reading all my blogs in what appeared to be one sitting!  You made my day ; )  I loved that you “got” my red pen story
Share the love!  Forward your favorite blog posts to family and friends.  I’ll make it easy. Here’s the link:

Day 64. It has taken me longer than 64 days to figure this one out.

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 64.  Saturday, May 28, 2011
I wasn’t looking forward to having brunch with Robert, an associate from work.  In my mind, I had better things to do with my time on a Saturday.  I even tried to scheme a way out of the meeting. But there was no use.  Sure, I could probably get out of the brunch—but in the long run, I would not be better off for skipping the meeting.

I showed up on time and was mildly hopeful the meeting would go well. Robert and I chatted idly for a bit.  I could sense we were both trying hard to make the best of the circumstance.


Robert and I aren’t great conversationalists with each other.  Neither party seems terribly interested in the other.  But today was different.  I put effort into finding something that interested Robert.  In this case, it was his recent trip to Florida.  I asked him how his trip went and he proceeded to talk non-stop about it.  I listened with interest, asking questions here and there.  When I asked particular questions—his face lit up—as if in shock that I would remember random details he had shared with me in the past.

He and I must have talked for about an hour.  Rather, he did most of the talking, I did the listening.  The brunch / meeting ended up being one of the most effective meetings we’ve had in a long time.

The Dale Carnegie principle I used is from How to Win Friends and Influence People
Principle 4.  Become genuinely interested in other people.
Principle 7.  Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves.

I am flabbergasted just how easy and pleasant today’s brunch went.  The reason is simple.  I became interested in the other person.  I chose a topic that was near and dear to his heart—and he talked on and on about the subject.  When we had exhausted the subject he then turned to me and asked me questions about subjects near and dear to my heart.  He too listened attentively and asked questions.

It is true that most people like talking about themselves.  That won’t change.  But your approach can change.  By taking interest in other people and encouraging them to talk about themselves, you end up making friends along the way.  This is a more rewarding approach to take with people instead of dominating a conversation or not engaging at all with them.

Day 55. A trip to a fabric store uncovered the perfect opportunity to use Dale Carnegie’s principles

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 55.  Thursday, May 19, 2011
I was walking aimlessly at a fabric store this evening.  I needed 1-2 yards of broadcloth fabric. 

I brought some fabric I found at the office thinking it might be broadcloth—I just needed someone at the fabric store to tell me if I was wrong or right.  I just needed a yes or no answer.  I didn’t necessarily need to buy fabric.  I did have a list of other items I needed at this store. 

The area where they were cutting fabric was very busy.  So I wandered the store—trying to find someone that might know the answer to my simple question. 

I ended up in a section of the store where they sell machines.  I asked the woman if she could tell me if the fabric I brought in was broadcloth.  She said yes it was—but she suggested I ask Cheryl in the multi-colored shirt.  So I went over to where Cheryl was standing with a customer.  I waited patiently. She looked at me and asked if I was just there to watch her demo the machine with the customer.  I said no.  I have a question.  She looked at me and said the clerks at the cutting table could help me.

To some of you—you might think of me as a meek, gentle, mild-mannered individual.  But that is not the full picture. 

My reaction to Cheryl was indignation—to say the least.  Yes, I was wearing jeans, a Johnny Cash, “San Quentin” t-shirt and my Doc Martins from many, many years ago.  But darn it.  There’s one thing that is sure to get my blood boiling… and that is making assumptions.

I wanted to put her in her place.  Here’s why.  I know people from the corporate office that employs this woman.  I help determine editorial coverage—including exposure for a variety of machines.  The last thing you really want to do—is underestimate me.  I said directly to her—sorry to bother you and I walked off—my heart pounding. 

I walked to the cutting table—but there was still an incredibly long line.  I didn’t need fabric cut.  I just needed to know if the fabric I had was broadcloth.

I circled back to the machine area—and I walked just close enough to make sure I got Cheryl’s name.  I didn’t say anything—my Dale Carnegie principles are drilled enough in my head that I knew better than to get into a fight.  I just wanted to be sure I knew her name.  (Principle 6 from How to Win Friends and Influence People:  Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important….”) Ha.

After verifying her name I walked back to the cutting table area and waited as patiently as I could in line.  The lady in front of me had a backorder but she told the clerk to help me first so that I didn’t have to wait.

Well—this jolted me.  Wait a minute—a considerate human being at a fabric store?

I smiled and insisted I was in no hurry. 

As the clerk, “Janet” went off to find the backorder—the customer said she was trying to make a jacket to wear with a dress.  But she wasn’t sure what type of fabric, what colors, etc.  She said she had the dress in her car.

I smiled and said—oooh go get the dress!  We’ll help you out!

So she did.  She came back, carrying a formal gown that she is planning to wear to her daughter’s debutant ball.  I made suggestions as did Janet.  I quickly scattered about the store looking for the perfect fabric for the dress.

Forget the fact that I was hungry, tired and ready to go home.  I let myself get caught up in the moment of helping this stranger.  Why?  Because she was considerate of my time when she had suggested Janet help me first.  I returned the favor by showing interest in her.  And given my disgust for Cheryl—this served as a pleasant way to diffuse my mood.

When we couldn’t find fabric—I told her of a fabric warehouse that would have plenty of options at more affordable prices.  I wrote the information down and we parted ways. 

Technically it wasn’t my “department” to care about this woman and her need for fabric to match her dress.  I don’t even work at this store.  I wasn’t getting anything in return.  But I did it anyway.  I point this out not to say look at me—I’m great.  I only point it out to contrast it with Cheryl’s behavior.  Cheryl the machine clerk only thought of what she wanted.

If I had spent the remainder of my time standing in line at the cutting table focusing on what I want—I would have spent that time in a grumpy, selfish mood.  I wanted to know about broadcloth fabric.  I wanted dinner.  I wanted rest.  I wanted to get out of that store.

Instead, I focused on someone else’s needs and interests. It made me happy to help her—and she seemed to appreciate having someone to bounce ideas off of and get reassurance from.  So in the end—I got what I wanted—a feeling of importance, respect, happiness in a human connection—and she got what she wanted—an attentive ear, respect, reassurance and happiness in a human connection.  Both of us won. 

(Side note, they messed up on her backorder… so odds are I probably diffused her mood too, thus keeping her from becoming an irate customer with Janet)

The Dale Carnegie principles I used are from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 2.  Give honest, sincere appreciation.
Principle 4.  Become genuinely interested in other people. 
Principle 9.  Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Remember, it is inevitable that you will encounter foolish, inconsiderate people and annoying circumstances.  Sometimes you’ll feel your heart pounding and you’ll want to tell some fool exactly what you think of them.  Don’t.  Channel your energy into something positive.  When you do this—you are able to exercise self-control and you’ll derive far more pleasure in spending your energy in a positive way than in wasting it on someone’s thoughtless or careless behavior.

Thanks for reading the blog! Spread word and pass the on to family and friends.

Day 27: The effect of a smile does not expire like a coupon.

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 27.  April 21, 2011 
As I walked into Church’s Fried Chicken today I was greeted with a big smile from the cashier I had smiled at a week ago.  The look on her face said she was happy to see me.   

I was oozing with excitement to see her reaction because it proved last week’s application of the Dale Carnegie principles “stuck”.  She remembered I had smiled at her and that I took interest in getting to know her SEVEN days ago. 

Since we were on familiar terms—I asked how her baby is doing—if she’s able to sleep through the night, etc.  I decided to improve my skills and learn her name—“Esther” and also her baby’s name—“Melanie”.  I’m horrible with names—so to help me remember I asked her to spell her name.  I visualized the letters in my mind.  I made a mental note of the name “Melanie” by thinking of a Melanie I knew in school. 

Next week when I return to Church’s Fried Chicken I will be ready to call her by her first name and ask about her baby, Melanie. 

As I left we both smiled and wished each other a happy Easter. 

The Dale Carnegie principles I used are from How to Win Friends and Influence People
Principle 5.  Smile
Principle 7.  Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves.

This story is a simple example of cause and effect.  People remember how you treat them.  So take positive actions—such as smiling or being a good listener instead of taking an indifferent, disinterested or even a negative approach.  You’ll be amazed how much more interesting even a simple visit to a fast food restaurant becomes.

Day 23. Steps you can take to help someone help themselves

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 23.  April 17, 2011 

Last Sunday I used a Dale Carnegie principle without realizing it.  I threw down a challenge.  I suggested to my friend Sara that she use her talent to make money. 

Today Sarah showed me the six beautiful scarves she knitted this past week.  Then we went to the yarn shop to pick up special yarns and supplies for more projects.  You could see Sara getting excited – looking at all the wonderful colors and varieties.  She was like a kid in a candy store.  While I don’t knit—I found myself also getting wrapped up in all the pretty yarns and the potential scarves they could become with Sara’s talent. 

Sara went on and on describing the different knitting techniques.  I listened and let her do most of the talking. You could see her eyes light up as she described the next set of scarves she was going to make. 

Beautiful potential

The Dale Carnegie Principles I used is from How to Win Friends and Influence People:

Principle 4.  Become genuinely interested in other people.
Principle 15.  Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
Principle 21.  Throw down a challenge.

When you take interest in what someone likes to do you can have such a profound impact on their growth as a person and their pursuit of happiness.

Day 20. Ordering a chicken strip combo meal turned into an ideal opportunity to use the Dale Carnegie principles

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 20.  April 14, 2011 
It was 5:15 pm as I walked into Church’s Fried Chicken in a rough part of the city.  I looked at the cashier and hesitated—waiting for her to greet me— or at least speak to me.  I found myself getting irritated by the lack of enthusiasm for my business.

I proceeded to order a chicken strip combo meal.  She behaved completely disinterested in the transaction.   

As I was filling my cup with ice—the cashier sighed heavily.  I thought to myself—here’s my opportunity to practice the Dale Carnegie principles. 

I said to the cashier, “has it been a long day?” 

Her demeanor softened and she said, “yes.” 

She explained that while her shift started an hour ago—she has a 5 month old baby at home that’s keeping her very busy.  Not to mention three other little children.  I proceeded to ask questions here and there—showing interest. 

I asked, “do you at least live nearby?”

“Yes, about 10 -20 minutes from here,” she replied.   

“Ah, that must be nice—I live about 30 miles from here.” 

We talked for several minutes as my chicken strips were getting fried.  She asked where I worked and what I do. 

As she was bagging the food she asked with particular care if I wanted any hot sauce or ketchup.  She handed me my food and said warmly—“see you next time!”


As I walked to my car I thought to myself—using the Dale Carnegie principles is like taking candy from a baby.  It doesn’t get any easier than this to change an indifferent moment or even a negative experience into something positive.  You just have to put the effort into taking action.  Everything else will fall into place.

Candy buttons

The Dale Carnegie principle I used today is from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 4.  Become genuinely interested in other people. 
Principle 7.  Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves.
Principle 8.  Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. 

When you encounter an individual who is grumpy, negative or indifferent—you’ll find it takes very little effort to transform their demeanor simply by showing them genuine interest.  When you take this approach—you will experience the similar pleasure I did—of knowing you caused that transformation.

Day 18. How Dale Carnegie helped me sell my first large photograph

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 18.  April 12, 2011
As I parked my car at the Hilton hotel this evening my favorite song began:  The Dog Days Are Over—by Florence + Machine.  I drew courage from that song—for I was going to embark on a different experience this evening.

I recently donated a 24” x 36” framed photograph to a charity auction.  And this evening was the big auction.  The attendees were important people—in an expensive part of the city.  I labored this morning trying to figure out what to wear so that I’d blend in.  As I entered the reception hall—I drew from the Dale Carnegie principles.  I smiled. 

My 24" x 36" framed photo in a public setting (sorry about the glare)

You see, the important detail here is that I didn’t know a single person at this event.  The only vague connection I had was that I knew the mother of one of the event coordinators for this event. 

I planned on just stopping in for an hour—to see my framed photograph in a public setting.  But I ended up staying for the entire event.  You see, I met the vague connection—her name was “Patricia”.  We ended up talking the whole evening.  I asked questions, listened and asked more questions.  I was interested in learning more about her, what she does for the company she works for and more about her mother— whom I know pretty well.  I wasn’t trying to get anything in return.  I just listened.

I mentioned to “Patricia” I was afraid no one would bid on my photograph.  (The sheet was blank with no bidders yet). 

Then when I checked back I noticed she put her name down as a bidder.  Then a couple other individuals starting bidding.  There was a bidding war over my photograph.  They asked me questions about the photo—what was my inspiration—where did I take it—how did I get so close up to the subject in the photograph.   I felt like a real photographer. 

By becoming interested in other people—they became interested in me—and as a result—my photograph brought in $250 for charity.  Everyone won this evening.

The Dale Carnegie principles I applied are from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 4.  Become genuinely interested in other people.
Principle 5.  Smile.
Principle 7.  Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves.

So remember, if you enter an uncomfortable situation where you don’t know anyone—try the time tested technique of smiling.  This tends to disarm people.  Then encourage others to talk about themselves and what interests them. You will discover this technique puts you at ease and makes you a more personable individual to those you meet.

Day 16. A trip to the nail salon is a great place to apply the Dale Carnegie principles…

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 16.  April 10, 2011 
I was at the nail salon today getting a manicure and pedicure.  The challenge is—I feel the same way about getting my nails done as I do about getting teeth pulled.  It’s a mild form of torture—and how I wish they would just sedate me for the entire process.

Using the Dale Carnegie principles... one step at a time

I wondered if I could swing the application of Dale Carnegie principles while I was there.  I smiled as I walked through the salon seeing the other customers.  I grinned as I showed the manicurist my accidental mishap with the nail polish I spilled all over my hands.  The other customers looked amused at least.   As the mild mannered gentleman clipped, sanded and used all sorts of horrifying implements on my feet I sat cringing, with my hands on the arm rests in a death grip.  Oh, I put on a good show.

Suddenly one of the manicurists got up and dismissed herself.  Apparently she wasn’t feeling well—and her two clients were left with half finished manicures and pedicures. 

These two clients started to complain – they had been there for an hour and a half, etc, etc.  One of the manicurists—a junior in high school— did her best to shuffle from one client to the next. 

Somewhere along the way light conversation began among all of us.  Nothing profound—just friendly, small talk.  It was a nice human connection and a great way to diffuse the stress levels.  The woman next to me was getting her nails done because she was going to a musical tonight.  The other two complaining ladies admitted they were enjoying the massaging chairs and they were happy to be away from their husbands and kids.

Find opportunities to smile

I enjoyed watching and being an active participant in this process.  Another customer came and started to complain that she had an appointment and she’s been waiting 20 minutes.  The staff apologized. 

I informed the complaining customer that they were short staffed—an employee went home sick.  The look on the customer’s face completely changed.  Oh—I understand.  Her demeanor turned to pleasant and accommodating. 

Armed with confidence that the Carnegie principles were working—I decided to turn my attention to the high school student who was now painting my toenails.  I told her I admired her patience and skill with the task.  That I have no ability to do what she does—and besides—my own feet scare me.  She thanked me and laughed.  I learned she wants to go into medical school but she’s worried her grades aren’t good enough.  I asked questions here and there and she continued to talk about herself.

When it was time to pay she thanked me for my patience.  They had been short not one—but two employees that day and that it was especially hectic for her and the others to pick up the slack. 

I smiled, thanked her and gave her a good tip.

The Dale Carnegie principles I used today:
From How to Win Friends and Influence People
Principle 1.  Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
Principle 2.  Give honest, sincere appreciation.
Principle 4.  Become genuinely interested in other people.
Principle 5.  Smile.
Principle 7.  Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves.
Principle 8.  Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. 

Remember, the next time you’re in a setting where the service isn’t what you are accustomed to—take a moment to remember the employees are human.  A kind word, patience and understanding can go a long way in making sure you get good service and you also diffuse a stressful situation.