Just like most professional speakers, I travel a lot which includes many hours in airports (places with many human connections, but often not a lot of humanity). Frequently, a meal in an airport means going through a line and ordering the various components of your meal from people who act and speak robotically with little or no human connection. This time, I’m passing through the Denver airport on my way home. It’s the dinner hour and I’m in line at an Italian restaurant, collaborating with the workers behind the counter to assemble something to eat. This is not a dining process, it’s fueling…nothing more. When I pay the cashier, he looks me in the eye, thanks me, smiles, and shares a wish for me to have a great flight. It was a moment of human connection in a process typically lacking in much humanity.
I find a place to sit down and eat. It’s not at a table, it’s just in one of those rows of uncomfortable airport chairs lining a carpeted walkway, backed up to a moving sidewalk. The chair next to me is open and serves as a makeshift table. You probably know this routine. I finish my meal and drink and am thinking of getting up to throw away my rubbish when an airport cleaning person approaches me, smiles, and asks if I’m finished and would like her to throw away my trash. It was a small gesture and another moment of human connection in another process which usually lacks much humanity.
Small Human Connections with Big Rewards
Both of the preceding stories were about creating human connections. In neither case, was much effort required. Really, no effort was required. What was required was a willingness on the part of the restaurant cashier and the airport cleaning person to break out of their shell to make a human connection, combined with a desire to make things just a little bit better for another human being.
You may have heard me say how, as IT people, we touch nearly everyone nearly everywhere. As such, we have a unique opportunity to improve people’s lives, even just a little bit. When you finish helping someone, wish him or her a good day. Don’t do it with a throw-away line like “Have a nice day.” Say something that helps you connect with the other person like, “I hope the rest of your day goes well.” or respond to something they said. If they mentioned going into a meeting, for example, you could say, “I hope it’s a productive meeting.” Similarly, like the airport cleanup person, look for small gestures that touch people in a positive way. It’s not necessary, nor always possible, to do something big. Instead, focus on small actions that make a small and positive difference in another person’s life.
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