The grocery store was packed, and every single shopper was miserable. Aisles were slow going, favorite brands were sold out and the checkout lines looked like they were miles long. It was a scene that’s probably familiar to anyone who has ever done their grocery shopping on the weekend.
Not one person was making eye contact with anyone else. Everyone was on a mission to fill their cart and go home; making a human connection was not on the agenda.
When it was my turn to pay, I smiled at the cashier and got a weak smile in return. I was willing to bet a lot of money that most people took out their frustration on her, as if their shopping on a Saturday was her fault.
We exchanged four sentences.
“Busy day,” I said.
“Haven’t seen it like this in a long time,” she replied.
“I hope tomorrow’s easier.”
“Thanks, me too.”
Four sentences, easy peasy, and I felt a shift. In less than 30 seconds, we had created a small oasis in an otherwise stress filled space.
Four Questions to Amp up Your Personal Leadership in Moments of Stress and Frustration:
- How often do you take your frustration out on someone just because they happen to be nearby?
- What would it feel like to lean into a relationship instead of staying in your bubble?
- Are you waiting for someone else to go first? Why?
- Do you hold yourself back from making eye contact? In what situations? Why?
Crossing through the entryway of the store, on my way out to the parking lot, I was ready to get home, unload, and hang out with my family. My inner voice was shouting that this trip to the store took far too long and my day was wasting away. That’s when I noticed that the store’s music changed, and the new tune had an awesome acoustic vibe. I briefly wondered when they started playing such cool tunes at the grocers and why they had different music in the entrance than inside of the store.
I glanced to my right and saw that there was a man playing his guitar near the entryway. This guy was singing, strumming and putting amazing emotion into his song. I paused and took it in for a heartbeat. Too bad I had to get home, I would’ve loved to have heard more.
Despite my initial instinct to pause and listen, I had places to be, things to do and kept on pushing towards my car. Then I stopped and stood, motionless, stuck between the pull of his music and the pull of my family at home, waiting for lunch. It would only take a second… I turned around and went back to the curb. Without rethinking it, I looked in my wallet, pulled out some money and went to talk to the musician.
I put the money in his guitar case, and we too exchanged four sentences.
“Your music is awesome – thanks for playing for us today.”
“You are the first person who’s looked up and stopped to hear it.”
“You made my day.”
“Can you come back every weekend?”
I see him around town now and wave and say hello. I don’t know him, but now my small town is a little smaller.
Four Questions to Amp up Your Personal Leadership if Always in a Rush:
- Are you leading your life in a blur of busy-ness?
- Is the mission you’re on so time sensitive you can’t pause for 30 seconds?
- Do you ever wish you had more connection in your life, but all you have time for is work?
- How would a moment of connection change your demeanor and your day?
What would happen if you stopped being so busy and made the time for four sentences?
Go beyond the nod
We’ve all seen it, the nod. It says, “I see you” without saying a word. It’s nice to know you’re not invisible, but not exactly the same as making a connection.
If you ask, “How are you?” wait for the answer
At work, I’ve seen many people assume that simply saying the words, “How are you?” makes them likable and people-focused. However, most of those people never listen to or really care about the answer. Not good.
Stop using time as an excuse
If you don’t think that you have the time to exchange four sentences, you’re nuts. Less than a minute to say, “I see you, you matter.” Who can argue with that?
Choose moments of meaning
It’s up to you, will you sleepwalk through life or make it meaningful? It’s easy to stay heads down, but it’s equally easy to look up and be engaged with the moment.
Break The Frame Action:
Grab a piece of paper and make a list of the signs you’re stuck in your head (or lost in your own me-centric world):
Do you get annoyed when people cut into your physical space?
When do you most need to pause your mental list-making?
Are there times that you can hardly remember what happened earlier in the day?
Do you yell at your children without even knowing what they’re doing, but their noise is distraction enough?
Are you always on a mission, in a rush? What does that feel like? What are the physical signs you experience?
Take three minutes and write ’em all down. These, among others, are your triggers to make another choice. Carry this list with you or post it somewhere that you’ll see it daily. Most importantly, use it to wake up to when you’re zoning out so you can tune in, even if it’s only for four sentences. Personal development doesn’t happen by accident, it starts with the intention to change.
When was the last time you looked up from your busy life and saw the other people around you instead of the obstacles in your way?
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