Confronting Perceived Realities

I recently stumbled across a heartwarming headline in my Facebook newsfeed...

I was compelled to click through, and the story starts out like this…

The London restaurant’s offer started with a simple note, handwritten on a sheet of white paper.

“No one eats alone on Christmas Day!” it read, with the exclamation point modified so that it included a heart. “We are here to sit with you. . . . Any homeless or elderly are welcomed.”

The note went on to outline the three-course meal the Turkish restaurant would serve from noon to 6 p.m. on Christmas (“FREE OF CHARGE,” double-underlined): soup and cacik, a Turkish herb-and-yogurt dip, to start; the choice of chicken casserole, vegetarian casserole or chicken shish for the main course; and rice pudding for dessert.
— WashingtonPost.com

There’s a lot of nonsense on the internet these days. Most content has adopted a tone of moral outrage, righteous indignation or impending doom. This story restores my hope in humanity. A Muslim man spreading Christmas cheer… That’s a refreshing perspective on what it means to live in community with one another. I hope you’ll take a moment to read the full article for yourself.

Personally, I appreciate this story for what it is—a decent man helping when, where and how he can. Professionally, I can’t help but to see this through a marketing lens. It’s a habit. Lessons in effective communication are everywhere, and isn’t that what marketing all boils down to? Sending the right message? At any rate, I do want to preface the following analysis with this… I think the restaurant owner behind “no one eats alone” is a nice man with pure intentions. His generosity is not motivated by commercial gain, and I sincerely hope that he wouldn’t mind my using his story as a teachable moment.

Perceived Realities

Our consultation services touch on perceived realities quite a bit. So what is a perceived reality exactly? And why is it important? The truth may not be subjective, but your reputation as a business certainly is. Consumers make decisions based on what they believe to be true, and sometimes what they believe isn’t true at all. As a business owner, you shouldn’t dwell on false assumptions, but you absolutely need to acknowledge them if you are going to communicate with consumers effectively.

Exceeding Expectations

“No one eats alone” leaves me with two questions…

  1. How can I be more generous with my time and talents?
  2. Why are so many people sharing this story?

I’m still working on that first one, but I have some sneaking suspicions about the second. At first glance, “no one eats alone” is a timely story about holiday generosity. Under closer examination, it’s a timely story about political and cultural tensions. But those things aren't enough to garner international attention. We share this story because we are surprised by it. We expect a certain type of person, with certain beliefs, in a certain situation to behave a certain type of way. Some people would expect a Muslim business owner to be resistant to Western culture and Christian traditions. Others might expect a Muslim business owner to feel victimized in the face of adversity. Tensions in London are, after all, extremely high. But this story isn’t about an enemy of Western civilization or an oppressed victim. This story is about a holiday hero, and we share it because it defies perceived realities on all sides.

As business owners and human beings, both professionally and personally, I challenge you to confront perceived realities in a positive way. It takes some work, and you may not always get it right… But the world is a nicer place when we do our best to pleasantly surprise one another.