Technology has made it so easy to reach so many people in such a short period of time which is an amazing business tool and a way to keep tabs on a great number of people, but we're turning away from the personal touch. Facebook, Twitter and e-mail are convenient ways to keep in touch with coworkers, friends and colleagues but they often fail to make or develop deep connections.
One of the lessons in business and life that my wife and I took on board early came from Joan Horner who co-founded a direct sales company in Dallas, TX. Joan was a master at building deep, meaningful, and personal relationships with people because she always found a way to keep it personal and spread her abundant joy and gratitude in life armed with an infectious smile and positive attitude.
Recognize the Good
"Catch someone doing something right." As a parent, teacher, or manager, we tend to look for all of the negative things people are doing. We are really good at spotting and reprimanding bad behaviors, but we are not very good at spotting and encouraging the good behaviors. You cannot ignore the bad behaviors, but you should be actively looking for the good things people are doing around you. Not only does finding and verbally acknowledging the good things create a ripple of thoughtfulness that spreads out from you, it forces you to realize that there are far more positive things going on in our lives that we should be grateful for. Whether your attitude is positive or negative largely depends on whether you look for reasons to be grateful or reasons to reprimand. You will find what you look for either way.
The Gift of a Handwritten Letter
One of Joan Horner's favorite things to do was write personal handwritten letters; not just the cards you sign your name to. There is something special about the effort and thought it takes to write a personal letter, attach a stamp, and shoot it off in the mail. People hardly receive anything in the mail besides junk, bills, and shipments from Amazon so a letter is like a small unexpected gift that people tend to treasure and keep. My wife and I have written letters of encouragement, letters to show support for friends who were going through tough times, and letters of apologies when we knew we were in the wrong. Most people probably know someone who deserves to be recognized at work, people who are going through tough times in their personal lives, and people who are an inspiration. Brighten their day by writing them a heartfelt handwritten letter immediately and start making it a habit to write letters to the people you care about regularly.
Recently I came across a nice woman whose car battery had died. I had just gotten the jumper cables on the battery leads when we started up a conversation. Before long, she started talking about how she was having a really tough time with her husband and son. I think it was her way of explaining why she had no one to call for help. She opened up to me because I listened and showed I cared even though the whole thing only took a few minutes. I think a lot of people are struggling with something in their heart, but we're socially conditioned to throw up walls and avoid vulnerability. People all around you are hurting, maybe even your spouse or kids. Listen and show you care. Even if you can't help, showing your concern can move people.
Notice the Unnoticed
We live in this dichotomous world where people have extensive electronic social networks, but a lot of people feel deeply isolated. It is so sad to see people who are forlorn and disengaged from the world, but it is a great opportunity to show people that even strangers care. A simple compliment, word of encouragement, or friendly smile can quickly break the isolation and drudgery of life for someone. Have you ever thanked someone you didn't know using their first name? People in the service industry actually forget they're wearing a name tag because almost no one makes the effort to just read their name. Using a first name carries so much power. You create a certain amount of instantaneous rapport when you use first names and get far more attention as a customer. Try it for a day and see how many people you trip out in a good way.
Smile and Laugh
Finally, we learned that having fun was infectious and a great way to keep it personal. Smile and laugh often; it tends to irritate the people that deserve to be irritated and bring joy to the people that deserve joy.