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There’s a fine line between delightful and annoying

Who says a morning jog cannot be an "Aha" moment? When our Content Director, David Austin, was in one with a "delight expert" recently, he realised that some could perceive our positive attitude the wrong way. This is how the story unfolds.

October 5, 2022

I first discovered Avi Liran in 2020 when I was writing a blog for Grab Business about Delight in Hospitality and Events. I needed a “delight expert” and Avi showed up high on the list (he has good SEO). 

Since then, we kept in touch on LinkedIn but had never met. That changed recently when we finally met up at Singapore’s Botanic Gardens for a walk at 7:30 am (early for me, but it makes sense for a positive person like Avi).

Avi showed me his favourite spots around the gardens as we walked and chatted. He said good morning to everyone we saw. 

At one point we crossed into one of the small car parks scattered through the Gardens. There was no pedestrian path, so we ambled on the lane. As we passed under a small carport a big car came in behind us and honked.

I felt a bit peeved. There was another lane the car could have used. And what’s the rush? It was a beautiful morning at an UNESCO World Heritage Site, not a crowded street in the CBD. The annoyance was slight. I was ready to ignore it but Avi, this “Global Delightful Experience and Organisational Culture Consultant” took a different tack.

He said, “Oh, she feels very entitled, doesn’t she? I think I’m gonna have a word with her. Let’s see how this goes.”

I cringed a bit. But I also really wanted to see what would happen next.

Having watched Avi’s inspirational Ted talk and heard his philosophy of delighting people all the time, I wondered how he was going to spin this. And who can be that positive all the time anyway?

The large luxury car parks and the driver hesitates before getting out. When she does, we can see she is a Singaporean woman, probably 70 or so, and very serious. 

She tries to walk past us but Avi follows her and says, “You know, in my country, when someone honks at you, it means they think you’re sexy.” 

I thought that was a good line. I would have laughed. But she was not having it.

Instead she proclaimed quite sternly that she had sounded the horn as quietly as possible and that in her country, which we are in, the pedestrian always has the right of way, even if it’s their fault, so she has to be careful, et cetera, et cetera, and she marched on. 

Avi follows and says, “Can we be friends? My name’s Avi.” She turns and says she knows who he is, he’s that “motivational speaker,” which is a job description she apparently doesn’t much care for. 

There’s a bit more back and forth as he tries to mend fences, but to no avail. As she’s walking away, Avi offers her a less than sincere blessing and hopes she has a wonderful day.  

Avi grumbles a bit after she’s gone and chalks it up to “SWSWSW. Some will, some won’t, so whatever, someone else is waiting.” That seemed to be it. But after about 15 minutes of walking he brought it up again.

“You know, I’ve gotta say though, that was my fault. I f****d up. She was in her ego, which is why she had that attitude. But I was in my ego because I went to her expecting a confrontation. I didn’t do the aikido and take her energy and turn it around.”

He went on to say, “The first thing I should have said is, I apologise for blocking your way. My intention in talking to her was wrong and that’s why it didn’t work. And that’s a lesson for myself, you have to have the right intention.”

He takes a more serious tone and says, “This woman probably has a lot of pain in her life or something, or she wouldn’t be that uptight this early in the morning.” 

Aha! So, that’s the key to the “motivational speaker” who routinely says that we are all “beautiful people living in a beautiful world”. You don’t have to be perfect. We aren’t always going to live up to our own proclaimed standards. But with a little self reflection and acknowledgement that we are all a “work in progress”, we can get a little bit closer to perfection.

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