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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

Giving Up Or Giving In? Who's Happiness Is Most Important?

Several posts ago, I wrote about the window in my massage room. I had taken down the blinds to put a window film on because I hated the dark, stuffiness of the room and wanted the warm, natural light. It was an instant hit with the office staff and several of my regular clients also commented on how nice it was because the room stayed light and bright even on some of our very frequent cloudy and rainy days, so it was a welcome change. I even started jokingly calling it the “Vitamin D Room” because it was a chance to lay and get a relaxing massage in the sun. Changing the window was pretty radical - not only because I took a risk in altering the room, but also because massage therapy rooms are traditionally very dark, so people can close their eyes and simulate the conditions that one would go to sleep. I kind of liked the total out-of-the-box change - which for me is soooooo not normal. 

Unfortunately, not everyone agreed with me. I started getting rather bad reviews from new clients (including one review absolutely tearing apart everything about my practice and warning people to never patronize me because of the “blaring light streaming in through the window”), and since the service industry lives and dies by reviews, I felt I had no choice but to cover up the window.

On a personal level, I was disappointed in losing my light. I felt like my mood was much improved with the brighter room, and I looked forward to coming in to work more. I was also disappointed that more people weren’t receptive to my “radical” idea that a massage therapy room could be bright and relaxing and my massage therapy skills outweighed the physical appearance of the room. However, on a professional level, it was a wake-up call and reminder that my personal preferences don’t really matter - what matters is the comfort of my clients.

One thing I am noticing throughout our world right now is that everywhere - be it in running a business, patronizing a business, working for a business, interacting with people, schools, etc. - we tend to strongly push the agenda of what WE, personally want and expect, no matter how it effects others.

I recently read a book by the Dalai Lama, and one thing that stuck out at me was his statements that every human, no matter what race, class, or socioeconomic level has but one desire - and that is to be happy. Whether for each individual happiness means wealth, peace, health, or a combination of a bunch of things, everybody wants the same thing. Everyone wants to be happy and content, and when a person’s individual wants and needs are met, we are happy. So if that is what we want, who are we to deny that to another human being who wants the same thing? In the process of focusing on ourselves and what we want, we can’t be blind to the option that our desires could have a detriment to anything else. Or should we operate and go through life only focusing on ourselves?

Many people do subscribe to the thought process that ‘whatever I want is the correct thing, and to hell with whatever anyone else wants’. Others are totally on the other side of the scale in that ‘my needs don’t matter at all, doing whatever everyone else wants makes me happy’. So how can you find that happy medium? How can you do what you want and what makes you happy without being a total doormat? I think that one way to find the middle ground is to look at the situation this way: What ultimately (not on the surface level) will bring me happiness and will my happiness cause any detriment to the desire of another person?

As a business owner, those reviews brought me back to this. Even though my occupational category is in the “health care” field, ultimately I am in the service industry. My personal preferences can't take precedence over the preferences of the people I serve. If I expect them to come to me for their goals of health and relaxation, how can I accomplish those goals if they are uncomfortable? Some may call me a pushover for covering up my window - that I gave in to a bad review. However, I am preferring to look at that bad review as a window into the insight of my clients. I may not agree, but the greater good says that my preference might not be the best for the expectations of my clientele, and making my clients happy ultimately is what will make me happy.

But just because I have decided to put my clientele’s needs above my own personal desires, doesn’t mean I have to totally give in to something I don’t want. In making a new curtain for the window, I used a fabric that cuts the light level while still not making it so dark that it looks like a cave, instead the room now has a cool blue glow. Will this work? Will my reviews change from here out? Maybe, and maybe not. Will my clients that liked the light be disappointed? Maybe, and maybe not. Will covering my window keep me from getting bad reviews? Absolutely not - you can’t please everyone, no matter how hard you try to provide excellent and professional service, there will still be things that pop up about the room that I have little to no control over. There will be mistakes made in the future, and I will always make decisions that not 100% of people agree with, but that is part of being human and a rant for another time. I feel like in this case I have found a compromise, so I don’t see it as giving up. So if we all subscribed to the thought that we know what we want and it is ok to go after what we want, but also consider how what we want affects not only another person but the overall greater good, how much different would this world be?

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