In my former life, I worked for a company that provided taxi and limousine transport for its employees. Once the ego-high of being driven around the place wears off, it becomes routine and just another part of the drudgery of making a living.
As I remember, the limousine drivers were all good guys and girls, who stuck by a maxim I now use: speak when you are spoken too, converse when the customer converses, and remain silent when they do. Simple, right? Not necessarily.
It is easy to slip into the conversational habit of talking about yourself when a customer gets chatty. But the relationship is very different than if you and I were talking. The limo customer truly isn’t interested in what I think, unless they specifically ask. The best response comes when I keep the conversation centred around them. It’s a basic technique of reflecting what they say back to them, and asking open-ended questions.
Occasionally, someone will connect on a personal level, at which point it’s clear that they want my opinion. But most people don’t get my humour, so I gave up doing my bits in the first month.
It’s the constriction of the role that is the problem – the context. People see a driver as only a driver. And what driver could possibly know more than sports, weather, and road conditions? Revealing interesting experiences from my life flummoxes them, because it jars with their vision of what a driver should be.
So much of my time is spent biting my tongue, smiling, and licking arse, like every other working stiff.