One of the secrets about just being nice is that it can be pretty easy when you make it a focus at the start of each day. There will always be people who test your limits, but you’ll also get a ton of positive feedback from people who appreciate common courtesy. But what about those moments “in the wild,” when you’re out doing your thing, focused on the task at hand, and maybe a bit tuned out to the world around you? In those moments, being aware of what’s going on around you (the act of self-awareness) can make a big difference in how your actions are perceived by others, and whether you make a positive or negative impression.
Chance Encounters and Daily Life
It’s difficult to be 100 percent aware of the situation around us at all times, and that’s part of the reason why self-awareness is such a valuable skill to develop. In the same way that being nice differentiates you from the people who don’t have time for common courtesy, being self-aware differentiates you in a positive way from those who are oblivious to their surroundings.
For instance, let’s say you’re shopping at your favorite retailer. It’s a crowded, busy day, and here comes Sam, phone glued to face, walking into everyone while he loudly has a very personal conversation. And he also parked his cart full of heavy items right in the middle of a crowded aisle before answering the call and walking away. At the airport, Sam is just as oblivious. He’ll likely walk through the door without a thought to people struggling behind him with arms full of baggage, or stop at the bottom or top of an escalator to check something or simply rest. Sam also loves live sporting events, and doesn’t mind spilling half his beer on other spectators while rushing to his seat in the middle of the action.
DON’T BE LIKE SAM!
It’s all about being conscious of the situation, considering how your actions impact others, and respecting the people around you. Self-awareness may seem like it’s in short supply, but that’s partly because people who aren’t self-aware tend to leave a lasting impression. The guy who cuts you off in traffic without a signal—the gal who shoves past you in the airplane aisle while you’re trying to lift your bag into the overhead. However, there are plenty of us out here doing our best to be aware of what’s happening in the space around us, even if we occasionally fall short… we are making the effort every day.
It Makes a Real Difference
The times when self-awareness matters most may come when you’re encountering people who pass through your life for a moment or perhaps when you’re speaking with someone you see every day. You just never know. If you tend to be introspective in public situations, maintaining that awareness will take effort over time to become habit. However, it’s a worthwhile habit to develop. There may not be a tangible, specific gain from being courteous to complete strangers, but over time those positive impressions add up, and you have the added benefit of a brief moment of connection that can be uplifting to the spirit (yours and someone else’s). These brief moments don’t always go unnoticed. Someone important could happen to observe your kindness to a stranger, or maybe you’ll run into that stranger in a different situation and they will remember your courtesy. Or, more importantly, it will make YOU feel good.
Or maybe they won’t. That’s part of the deal, too. Sometimes the reward is simply in knowing that you did the right thing at the right time whether it’s recognized or not. Becoming more aware of how your everyday actions impact the people around you will serve you well in any social situation whether you’re out in the wild or interacting with friends, family, or colleagues.
Being self-aware and being nice go together because it is so much easier to treat people the right way when you’re conscious of their needs. Besides, the way you treat others comes back to you in some way or another. It can take practice, but having a sense of the moment and taking time to observe what’s going on around and looking for ways to be courteous are worth the effort. Your actions affect those around you, and eventually come back to you, whether you’re paying attention or not. Your Personal Brand is what you do; your Reputation is what people Remember and Share.
This first appeared on Ted Rubin