The other day, I was scrolling through Facebook, and I get a notification that my friend and college roommate tagged me. He shares very openly some pretty major challenges in his life (depression, losing his house and belongings in a fire. You know, THAT kind of major). Then he says “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the following:”, listing a number of people, including me.
Two things hit me instantly:
I felt like a lousy friend. How could I not know he was struggling so badly?
Had I really made that kind of lasting impression on his life? I certainly didn’t think that I had.
The whole thing got me to thinking how easy it is to underestimate the impact we have on the lives of those around us. I don’t think this is something we do on purpose. It’s easy to overlook some interactions or conversations as menial or inconsequential, but are they really?
Here’s what I think. We have a greater power than we probably realize to build up (or tear down) the people around us. Here are some things we can all do each day:
Make every interaction count. Approach each one as if it has the ability to make or break your relationship with the person. If you have had the fortune to meet Steve Browne (@sbrownehr), you know he has this skill on lock. When you’re talking with him, you feel like you’re the most important person to him at that moment. He loves people, and he makes you feel good when you’re around him.
Take something away from every interaction. No, I don’t mean their fancy Apple Watch. I mean something that they said or did that you can remember for later. Maybe you’ll hear that the person has kids. File that away, and next time you’re around them, ask how they’re doing. Make notes of what sports teams they follow, so you can talk with them about the big game the night before.
Use the person’s name. This one is so simple, but so powerful. When I’m checking out at a grocery store or coffee shop, for example, the folks are usually wearing name tags. Instead of just an obligatory thank you, I’ll say “Thanks [their name]”. I’m amazed to watch their reaction. It visibly improves their mood in that moment.
Try to be the bright spot in someone’s day. We all have had those days where nothing seems to go right, we’re overwhelmed, stressed, just generally maxed out. There are people all around you that may be having one of those days today. Offer a smile, a kind word, hold the door for them. You never know, your small act of kindness may be what keeps them going today.