What I Learned from Don Rickles

Comics have always been my idols ever since I was a kid. The courage of a comic to take a room and deliver their material always impressed me as the most courageous act a person could make.

One of those idols, Don Rickles, passed away yesterday and his life left an impression with me. With Rickles, I learned you can take a risk in saying something unexpected to a person, PROVIDING you’ve got their best interest at heart. Every time I’ve taken that risk with a client, I’ve always provided the right context to my “lightening” comment. Often clients reconnect we me and recount that lightening statement as the one point that stuck with them and transformed their behavior.

You actually have to dig deeper to create the lightening statement. But when you do, you’ve got the opportunity to stand out as someone who passionately cares about someone or something and can back up your thinking. Several years ago, I recall recommending to a client they take a screen test in Los Angeles, given their charismatic delivery, since all they did was perform/speak versus genuinely desire to understand their client’s business before speaking about their offering. That’s a Don Rickles lightening statement.

It demonstrably, though, moved our conversation and relationship to a deeper level where we focused on transforming this selfish behavior to an empathetic relational behavior.

The coaching point is; don’t shy away from the Don Rickles statement, as long as your confident it will get your client’s attention. Once you’ve got their attention you can then present your rationale for the statement which illustrates your deep concern for their success and well-being.

I don’t have any joke or one-liner here I can conclude this with that could come even close to the direct wit of Don Rickles. So, I won’t event try. He was that good.

Please share your thoughts about Don Rickles in the comments below.  Thanks. – SG

4 replies
  1. Maria Cabrera
    Maria Cabrera says:

    Thanks Steve for your article, always you have some teaching to share. I have always believed that life is composed of risks who do not risk in life never reach their goals.

  2. John Arato
    John Arato says:

    Hi Steve. Love the Lightning Statement and using empathy with customers as you mention, and I am also a big Rickles fan. Sad he’s gone but he lived such a great life. What a great job and career….making people laugh! NYT had a very nice obituary.

    I also love reading your BLOG so please keep it coming! Hope to see you soon.

    Best Regards,
    John Arato

  3. Laura Davidson
    Laura Davidson says:

    Great column Steve. Don Rickles has left a void in the comedy world… And in that there is a welcome opening for you I am sure! Your terrific sense of humor sets a great stage for your coaching with my team.

    All the best,
    Laura Davidson/LDPR


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