We’ve all heard it. “That’s how we do things around here.” It brooks no argument and is a strong signal that changing the behaviour might be difficult. That is, of course, if you tackle the issue directly.
An alternative might be to use this little story that was told by a taxi driver as I travelled from Coffs Harbour to Bellingen last week. The cabbie had worked as a car salesman for Toyota in a previous life. Apparently they got lots of sales training and Tom Hopkins from the US did some of the training. Tom had told his class about a family experience.
A few years ago I met my future mother-in-law for the first time. She was preparing a roast dinner. As she readied the lamb to go into the oven, I watched her cut off the shank and throw it in the bin. She then placed the tray in the oven. I was bewildered. I asked why she did it and the reply was “we always do that.” I didn’t say anything else as I didn’t want to make a scene, especially as this was the first time I had met her.
A year or so later, my new wife was preparing a lamb roast. Just as her mother had done previously, my wife removed the shank and disposed of it. Unable to contain myself, I asked why she had done that. “We’ve always done that” she replied. “But why?” I asked. “I don’t know. That’s what our family have always done” was her answer. Whenever we would have a lamb roast the same thing would happen.
Years later we were visiting my wife’s grandmother in her home where she had lived for nearly 50 years. She was preparing a lamb roast. I watched her remove the shank and throw it in the bin before placing the tray in the oven. Unable to contain myself I said “forgive me, I don’t mean to be rude, but can you tell me why you did that?” “Of course I can“ she said. “This old house has only got a tiny oven and I can’t fit the entire roast in with the shank still attached.”
Coincidentally, the very next day I was working with a group and someone said “we’ve always done it that way” and couldn’t explain why when I asked. The ‘lamb roast’ story helped him reconsider his position.
About Mark Schenk
Mark works globally with senior leadership teams to improve their ability to communicate clearly and memorably. He has been a Director of Anecdote since 2004 and helped the company grow into one of the world’s leading business storytelling consultancies. Connect with Mark on: