The Festive Season, A Time for Giving and Receiving … Instructions

Posted on: December 25th, 2017 by Pat Mesiti No Comments

We are a few nights before Christmas and this may not reach you until all the hurly-burly of Christmas is done – but at this point I’m suffering severe festive season fatigue. What is getting to me most is that other people’s minds seem to turn to Rocky Road marshmallow in the lead up to Christmas. I have my youngest daughter staying with me and we went shopping in one of the big Gold Coast shopping centres a few days ago. For lunch we decided to have a curry from a brilliant Malaysian café. I very clearly asked for two curries and one drink. What do you think arrived? Yes, two drinks and one curry. The next day I caught up with a young couple and their six-month-old baby for brunch. Now babies aren’t good in cafes at the best of time. The waitress asked if we would be eating and we said, yes, we wanted to eat, could we please see some menus but could we start with three coffees, please. That was the last we ever saw of that waitress! Half an hour later I went to the counter to chase up the coffees. We decided not to order food as it probably would not have arrived before Christmas. On the same day a friend of mine went to a doctor’s surgery to get a vaccine ahead of travelling, but no one could find his medical records! The nurses and doctors were all wearing festive attire (Christmas T-shirts with pictures of Rudolph, etc) and they were having a great time, but completing something as simple as giving a guy an injection was in the too-hard basket.

It’s the Silly Season!

Yesterday was the final straw. Out for lunch, I ordered a risotto and a coffee at a restaurant. After 40 minutes a cup of tea and a slice of quiche arrived. I was so hungry I didn’t say anything but ate it. It wasn’t bad; still I’m at a loss to explain why people become so empty headed at Christmas time. I think in the lead-up to Christmas cafes and restaurants should abandon any pretence of ordering and serving and just move to a lucky-dip system. Patrons should wander in, sit down and the staff can serve them whatever is available. You may get a tuna sandwich, you could get a donut or a cup of coffee. As the old expression goes: eat what you’re given and be grateful for what you get!

But why are people, particularly waiters and waitresses, so totally and utterly bamboozled in the lead-up to Christmas? Is that why we call it the silly season? Commercially Christmas, Easter and then Mother’s Day are the three busiest and most profitable times of year for shops. I sincerely believe that the Christianity wants people to be prosperous and share in life’s richest, so it’s no coincidence that these three Christmas celebrations stimulate the economy.

Advice from a reluctant Christmas Grinch

Clearly businesses need to plan ahead for these busy times, and perhaps extra staff should be recruited. Still people need to focus and keep their minds on the job. I’m trying really hard not to be a Christmas Grinch here, but I have been wondering why people struggle with following basic instructions. So I’ve done some research on giving and receiving instructions and I’d like to share my findings with you. If you work with people in any capacity, this information should be helpful to you.

How to successfully give instructions

I found most of my information on sites for teachers, as successfully giving instructions is a key part of teaching.

Check that the listener is actually listening.

We often need to impart crucial information to people in noisy environments – offices, factories, restaurants. You need to ensure that the person you are instructing is focussed on you, that their attention is not diverted elsewhere. Try to make eye contact, look them in the face. If you are ordering food, do not just look at the menu but make a person-to-person connection with the person who is serving. Remember that serving in any capacity is a noble profession. God placed us on earth to serve each other in multiple ways.

Not everyone is good at receiving verbal directions

People receive information in different ways. Some people are visual learners. If imparting crucial information at work, make sure you follow up your instructions with at least an email. Ideally you should draw up a mission document that outlines everyone’s duties and the deadlines for jobs. Include diagrams in your written instructions. Cater to multiple intelligence levels.

To check that someone has heard you, ask them to repeat the instructions or order you have just delivered. In a restaurant or café, politely ask the waiter or waitress, to run through your order. The repetition will encourage deeper processing (and better memory).

Break up your instructions

Break up your instructions into manageable chunks.  Pause between directions to make sure your colleagues, children or wait staff have the chance to write down what you are asking for and commit it to memory. At Christmas time, shops and cafes hire casual employees who have limited experience. Perhaps I have been asking too much of people this festive season, and needed to make my instructions clearer and more manageable.

Use some humor

Sometimes a little humor gets people’s attention. I’ve been using jokes and wisecracks in my public appearances for years. If you smile, and make a funny comment at least your waiter or waitress will remember you. If you endear yourself to them they may even endeavour to get your order right. The same goes for work colleagues!

Be clear and consistent

Do not give directions that are ambiguous. Your instructions must be clear, concise and consistent. At work people will get to know you and your style.

Mind your manners

Never speak down to people and watch your tone. Be respectful. If you have to raise your voice or you come across as grumpy or aggressive, you don’t stand a chance of people really hearing you. Maintaining composure is perhaps the most powerful management strategy. This is true whether you are ordering food at a café or running your own company.

Finally, remember this is the season of peace, job and love. Be like a snowman at Christmas – chill out!


Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.


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