It's the little things
It's often the smallest acts that make the biggest impact
Happy Mother’s Day to all who celebrate! If you’re lucky enough to have your mom (or someone mom-like) in your life, be sure to reach out and let her know how grateful you are. ❤️
As a child during the ’70s, I participated in a summer school enrichment program. I recall one day when my teacher, Mr. Lee, asked my classmates and me to complete our art projects, clean up our tables, and, when finished, to please sit on the carpet at the front of the classroom.
Most of the class continued to work on their creative masterpieces, and some began to tidy up their areas. When I finished my project and cleaned my work area, I quietly walked over to the carpet, sat down, criss-cross applesauce style, and waited for my classmates to join me.
They never did.
To my surprise, everyone stayed at their tables. They were well-behaved, seemingly awaiting further instruction from our teacher. I peered around the room a few times, wondering if perhaps I had misunderstood, but remained seated.
I then watched as Mr. Lee, who had been busy at his desk preparing for our next exercise, slowly made his way over to me, shaking his head, eyes down, arms behind his back.
Uh oh, I thought. He’s upset.
And he was. But not at me. In fact, what he said next would stay with me for decades, carrying over into my career:
“Amy, do you realize you’re the only student who not only listened to what I said but actually heard me?”
I believe that people want—and need—to be heard. To be seen. To be acknowledged.
In a professional setting, this often translates into grandiose gestures that occur only once a year: an annual performance review, a company holiday party, or a year-end bonus. And while those things are important, the way to inject more meaning into your workplace comes from smaller acts consistently performed over time.
Simply letting others know that you’re aware of—and appreciate—something they’ve said or done will have a far greater impact than you could imagine.
Here are some easy—and repeatable—ways to ensure that people feel seen, heard, and acknowledged:
Every day, we interact with others numerous times. But, how often are we actively listening to understand rather than respond? And what might we be missing? Consider this: if someone takes the time to tell you something, they value you; your opinion matters to them. The best way to reciprocate that value is to hear them, so put down your phone, back away from your email, and focus on the person right in front of you. This lets them know that what they say is significant enough to warrant your attention and that they matter.
Offer an encouraging word
While listening is a fundamental relationship-building skill, sometimes people just need a verbal boost. Provide that in the form of a pep talk or words of support before, during, and after a challenging assignment or a difficult period. Words have power, so use them for good by frequently encouraging your team, boss, and clients.
Send a piece of snail mail
These days, receiving something other than a bill or junk mail in your physical mailbox is a rarity. So stand out for the positive and make someone smile by sending them a postcard. And lest you think it has to be from an exotic vacation destination, consider this: one of the happiest surprises I’ve ever received was a cute postcard from a friend, thanking me for being a “wonderful human being” and wishing me well in the year ahead. (Spoiler alert: That card is pinned to my office wall for those days when I’m feeling less-than.)
Craft a handwritten note
When our daughters were little, I’d always pack their lunches with a “napkin note,” a quick message on their paper napkins to let them know that I loved them. And depending on the day, I’d add a vote of confidence that they’d ace a tough test or a specific reminder of their awesomeness. The same strategy can be applied to colleagues by leaving a quick pick-me-up on someone’s chair or desk.
Use technology to connect in a more meaningful way
Yes, we all have a love/hate relationship with technology. We’ve developed a Pavlovian response to our notifications, and we constantly check our inboxes for asks and to-dos. Cut through that negative clutter by passing along meaningful content. For example, message a TED talk link to a co-worker who would find it interesting or text your business partner a link to a podcast with an uplifting message.
Small acts of kindness, done consistently over time, will not only improve your relationships and boost morale, but they also have the added benefit of being contagious in all the best ways, causing a beautiful ripple effect.
Do you know what else creates a beautiful ripple effect?
Regularly practicing gratitude leads to:
Improved sleep, optimism, and physical health
Enhanced self-esteem, resilience, and empathy
And a positive umbrella effect on those around you, improving your career.
In my latest Forbes article, I share two ways to incorporate it into your daily routine.
P.S. When I’m not writing this newsletter or actively listening to those around me, I’m a social media ghostwriter. (Yep, that’s a thing). I help founders, entrepreneurs, and CXOs craft their stories to communicate and connect better by magnifying their reach and impact. (Think personal branding and thought leadership.) Learn more here.
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