By the sheer accident of being in the tea business, I have learned the perfect way to conduct business with other people. I believe this discovery should become an adopted practice for everyone doing business today.
Going back eons, I remember my first internship interview in graduate school. I was so nervous I took a valium to get through it. Unfortunately – and not surprisingly – it didn’t go very well. The valium was too strong for me. I felt like a bowl of Jello on holiday; I’m sure my personality reflected that. I wasn’t able to muster up enough energy or enthusiasm to convince the interviewers that I was the right person for the position. Interesting thing was, that although I seriously doubt that they, too, took valium, the interviewers’ personalities appeared to be as flat as I perceived mine to be.
I’ve since grown more confident and less anxious during interviews (these days I’m usually the one doing the interviewing), but it still feels a bit awkward for all involved, especially in the beginning. In addition to the slow start, there often are uncomfortable silences until things get warmed up – if they ever do. That is, they were until we began offering tea at the start of every interview.
The change in the interview process has been nothing short of miraculous since we implemented our tea policy for meetings. Now, as soon as candidates walk through the door, we invite them to sit down and have tea with us. No one has declined. In fact, most welcome it enthusiastically. The invitation alone is enough to disarm people immediately and make them more relaxed. The first sip engenders comments about the aroma and taste, followed by a spate of questions about the type of tea and where it’s from. Before anyone even realizes it, off we go engaged in easy, relaxed, and convivial conversation. I have also found that people are much more likely to begin to share aspects of their personal lives with us. Once rapport has been so readily established, it’s a breeze transitioning into business talk.
Once we get down to business, that process has become easier and more rewarding as well. We are now conducting business from a position of connectedness with the tea, with each other and with the moment. Business becomes much more open and frank and more relaxed. It becomes an exploration rather than a chore. What is most rewarding is that regardless of the conclusion of the meeting, we are always blessed with follow up responses from people thanking us for our warm welcome and the delightful tea.