“You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
I had to impart that bit of wisdom on my teenage daughter when we were on vacation recently. She has a tendency, like me, to get “hangry.” However, I see the “hangry” warning signs in myself much more quickly than she does, and when I feel myself moving in that direction, I grab a little snack to keep me going till I can get a meal. Somehow, no matter how many times I have tried to teach her, she doesn’t listen.
Last week, we were on vacation on an island in the Caribbean. I am very familiar with “island time,” and I thought I had made the concept clear to my daughter. Apparently, I failed. We went to dinner one night, and as soon as we were seated at the restaurant, I knew we had a wait ahead of us. It was crowded, and we were on an island…that equals a wait. And it was, indeed, a wait. I saw the anger building in my daughter’s eyes. I know that hangry look. Honestly, if we had been in the United States, I would have been angry too. The wait time was excessive by US standards, but not by island standards. At least we had a table, right? We had been sitting for a while and had not placed our dinner orders when a large group came in. I knew then that I had to take action, so I got up and walked over to the server station where a lovely, hardworking, young lady was entering orders in the computer. She was working hard, but there was no way I wanted our order to get to the kitchen after that large group. I very kindly approached her with a big smile and said, “Hey. I know it’s crazy here right now, and nobody here is working harder than you are. If a large group hadn’t just come in, I wouldn’t be worried, but I’m afraid their order is going to get to the kitchen before ours, and we will be waiting forever. We are ready to order whenever you can get to us.” I was sweet. I used my best southern charm, and she smiled and very kindly said, “I’m on my way to your table right now.” She came over and took our orders, and I thanked her profusely. When she walked away, my daughter, who was starting to look like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, said to me, “How can you be so nice to her right now?!?! We have been waiting forever!” She was right. We had been waiting a long time and didn’t even have drinks yet. And that’s when I replied, “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I explained to her that the servers in that restaurant were working extremely hard (waiting tables is hard work), and their culture doesn’t look at time the same way we do in the US. And I had to explain the meaning of “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
Is that a southern saying? My mother used it a lot when I was growing up. If you’ve never heard it and don’t understand the meaning, I will clarify: it means you will win people over more quickly/easily by being kind. Get it? Honey = sweet, and vinegar = bitter. Kindness goes a long way.
Clearly, in the case of our dinner wait on vacation, it worked. We told our hardworking server how grateful we were, and we tipped her well to show our gratitude. At first, when my daughter asked how much I tipped, she said, “What?!?! The service took forever!” And I reminded her about honey/flies/vinegar. I also told her that she could bet that, when we returned to the restaurant, the server would remember us…and I was correct. The next time, she came to our table immediately with a big smile. It was a good lesson for my daughter. And in the end, we all won. The server got some fat tips, and we got better, more timely service. And frankly, by the end of our ten-day vacation, we felt like we had become friends with the server.
Trust me when I say that my mother had to repeat the saying about flies/honey/vinegar lots of times to me over the years. I’m not always the most patient person, and I’m not always the most kind person. I try, but I don’t always succeed. I have a bit of temper that I often have to keep in check. But I was happy I could use the opportunity to prove a little something about kindness to my daughter. She was impressed, so hopefully, she learned a little something.
“You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I can still hear my mother saying it.