One of a Hundred of a Kind

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Summary:

Have you ever said A to your customers and they thought you meant B? Or, they said C and you thought they meant D? Such situations can lead to flawed outcomes and damaged relationships, especially if you don't discover the conflicting understanding till too late.

Have you ever said A to your customers and they thought you meant B? Or, they said C and you thought they meant D? Such situations can lead to flawed outcomes and damaged relationships, especially if you don't discover the conflicting understanding till too late.

Fortunately, these experiences are sometimes merely instructive rather than serious. Take my recent experience, for example. While seeking a housewarming gift for a friend of mine, I came across a small shop that touted one-of-a-kind products. The shop was full of magnificent and unusual items, many handcrafted. Perfect.

I selected a beautiful multi-grained wood bowl. When the shop proprietor, hereafter known as Mr. OneAndOnly, tried to remove the price tax affixed to the bowl, it left a blemish on the wood. Not acceptable. I'd have to find something else.

But Mr.OneAndOnly said, "Wait, let me look in the back for another bowl like this." What? Another one of a kind like this one of a kind? Moments later, he returned with an identical bowl. He removed the price tag carefully and I purchased it.

I didn't care that he had two of a kind - or maybe hundreds of a kind. My friend gushes when she receives something she likes, and she double-gushed when she saw this bowl. She was happy and I was happy.

But what a classic case of differing interpretations. I had interpreted one of a kind to mean that nowhere in the universe, including his store room, is there another bowl exactly like the one I selected. Not, as I came to realize was the case, that the items he sold were unusual, things you're not likely to see anywhere else. Which I hadn't. But he hadn't declared the items to be Things You're Not Likely to See Anywhere Else. He had declared them to be One of a Kind.

In both the workplace and in consumer situations, it's important to ask questions and more questions to ensure that the two parties have a shared understanding - especially (unlike my situation) when there's a lot at stake.

This story didn't quite end there. When I subsequently went to
Costa Rica
, I discovered the exact same bowl in all the tourist shops - and for one-third the price of the one I had bought. Hmmm, did Mr. OneAndOnly discover this bowl, become inspired by it, and begin to produce his own? More likely, he imported them for sale in his shop. Very likely, some of the other items in his shop truly were one of a kind. I just happened to select one that wasn't.

While in
Costa Rica
, I bought several of these bowls as gifts. Including one for me. I'm quite content with many of a kind.

About the author

Naomi Karten's picture Naomi Karten

Naomi Karten is a highly experienced speaker and seminar leader who draws from her psychology and IT backgrounds to help organizations improve customer satisfaction, manage change, and strengthen teamwork. She has delivered seminars and keynotes to more than 100,000 people internationally. Naomi's newest books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Her other books and ebooks include Managing Expectations, Communication Gaps and How to Close Them, and How to Survive, Excel and Advance as an Introvert. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions & Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. She is a regular columnist for StickyMinds.com. When not working, Naomi's passion is skiing deep powder. Contact her at naomi@nkarten.com or via her Web site, www.nkarten.com.

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