We’ve all been there – a dinner party for a friend at that new five-star restaurant she’s been wanting to visit, a congratulatory meal for a newly promoted colleague, a birthday extravaganza you agreed to attend without knowing the details – having to split the bill.
It sucks. Always. Without fail.
Despite everyone’s secret hope that this time the outcome will be different, the process will be painless and each member of the group will walk away feeling light and happy about how things played out, shit hits the fan.
Why does the experience suck? And why are we caught off guard each and every time?
Lack of communication.
Each member of the group enters the situation as a lone wolf. There’s no conversation beforehand about how the bill should be handled at the end of the night.
Are we splitting the bill? Is everyone putting an equal amount into the pot? Is the group covering the expenses of the guest of honor? Is the host paying? Are we splitting the entire bill equally or is each person responsible for his/her own bar tab? Are we getting separate checks?
Each member is hesitate to voice his/her individual needs and boundaries. Those for whom the five-star price tag will require the sacrifice of their rent money suddenly morph into ostriches with their heads in the sand of an alternate universe where their reality suddenly has the same hues as everyone else’s in the group. No one wants to start a scene.
I’m not drinking tonight, so please exclude me from the bar bill. This restaurant is out of my price range so I’ll eat earlier and join you for the camaraderie. There’s only enough cash on the tray to cover half the bill and I’m not covering the entire difference so folks have to cough up some more green.
Each member assumes everyone else will feel and act as they do.
We should split everything evenly regardless of what people ordered because it’s just easier that way. There are some heavy drinkers in the group and others who don’t drink at all so people should just keep track of what they drink and pay their own bar tab. Since I just had salad and the bread basket, I shouldn’t be expected to pay more than what I owe.
It’s a disaster of miscommunication, resentment, trepidation and resignation.
This splitting the bill situation can ruin a great party.
The same phenomenon also can ruin a business.
How many times have you witnessed people get screwed in a business transaction or a working relationship because they didn’t ask the right questions (or enough questions) going in, or they were embarrassed to ask for what they needed, or they assumed they’d be looked out for without voicing what being looked out for actually looked like?
How often have you been that person?
Lack of communication. Shame. Expectations.
Asking for what we need can be hellishly awkward. Revealing our vulnerabilities can be scary. Telling people what we want requires courage.
But it’s worth so much more than an avoided argument after a great dinner party. It’s actually priceless.
Do you have any experience with this kind of situation? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Please share your thoughts, in the comments below.
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