Have you ever been blessed with being told of how a kind gesture, pleasant word, or simple gift had a tremendous impact on someone? If you’re like me, it brought joy to your heart knowing that something so simple made such a difference in someone’s life. On the other hand, if you’re like me, you’ve also been mortified how an unintentional comment, seemingly insignificant action, or overlooked responsibility created pain or suffering for someone. One can be the absolute height of joy. The other brings gut wrenching pain. It’s sobering to realize how such small things can have a tremendous impact on others.
Before you read any further, take a moment to try Error Prone. It is a clever, fun, and humorous bit of programming that illustrates the impact of individual thinking and behavior. (It only works with a standard computer and keybard—no smartphones or tablets unfortunately.) Be sure to turn off/down your sound if you’re in the office!
How many times did you play? I needed several attempts before I made it the entire time without a crash, and, of course, my time and distance was never as efficient as the computer would be.
That site is promoting the benefits of automated transportation, but I’m not advocating that we have computers take responsibility for our personal interactions. (Although, it seems we are indeed inching that direction with the artificial intelligence already built into our smartphones.) My point is we need to think more intentionally about the impact we have on one another.
Do you understand that the small talk in the break room this morning might have changed the direction of someone’s day today?
Do you know that the hurried response you gave to a direct report’s question this afternoon may have been discouraging?
Do you realize that remembering to ask how your coworker’s spouse’s surgery went could help take some stress off that person today?
Do you grasp the impact you have on trust and communication when you frequently look at your phone or computer screen during a face-to-face conversation?
I need to be careful here because some hair-splitting is necessary: I’m not suggesting you are responsible for how others choose to feel. I am saying you are responsible for understanding your role in how others choose to feel.
Let me challenge you with some one-day experiments. Pick one of the options below. Just one day. You can do this!
Option 1 – Asking Questions
When someone (at work or home) comes to you with a need or some information to share do not respond with an answer. Instead, ask a question. Solicit more information. Here are a number of questions you could ask:
- Can you tell me more?
- What’s your insight on that?
- That’s interesting. (Then be quiet.)
- Do you have a recommendation?
- What do you think of that?
If you’re up for it, expand this challenge by asking three questions in a row before you offer any response or direction of your own.
Option 2 – Show Personal Interest
Every time you visit someone else’s office, cube, or other personal space, identify a personal item such as a picture, knick knack, or “family artwork” (lots of people have kids’ artwork at the office). Then ask about it: “That’s an interesting picture. Did you take that?” or “That’s interesting, did you get that on a trip?” or “That reminds me of my kids’ artwork. What grade is your child in?”
Then let the conversation develop. Show interest. Soon, the conversation will naturally pause. When it does, transition back to your business purpose for visiting: “Thanks for sharing that. The reason I stopped by was to …”
Option 3 – Simple Compliments and Thank Yous
Offer five compliments or thank you comments. Simple compliments can be very meaningful to others. Examples: “Your comment in the meeting this morning was insightful. Thank you.” or “Thanks for taking that call for me this morning. I appreciated your help there.” or “It was helpful to get your report so quickly. Thanks!” If you are observant and thoughtful, you’ll find it easy to do this. People really do and say great things all day long!
A word of caution on compliments: When offering compliments, men need to be particularly careful about complimenting women on their personal appearance. I’ve been taught by wise, godly women that there is a big difference between, “You look very nice today.” and “I like the color of that scarf.” If you are going to offer a compliment on a woman’s personal appearance, focus on the item of clothing or jewelry not the person. It’s too easy for such compliments to be interpreted incorrectly.
Each of these one-day experiments is designed to help you see how easy it is to have a positive impact on others. In all cases, you’re unlikely to realize what that impact is. People aren’t likely to instantly respond with, “Thanks so much for asking those questions this morning!” No, the impact may take a long time and you will only have that impact if you continue to be intentional with this on a daily basis. It must be a regular discipline.
Case in point: At my 15 or 20-year high school class reunion, someone I hadn’t seen since graduation found me and told me a heart-warming story. She recalled her troubled years after high school and the long, difficult journey she had been on. However, she also told me about the day she realized she needed to go a new direction. She thought back to high school and the way that I had treated her with kindness and caring words. She also remembered that I was a follower of Christ. Long story short: she looked into what it meant to follow Christ and she soon gave her life to Christ as well. She then shared how her life turned around afterward—getting married and serving in a local church.
I don’t share that story as a means to boost my image. Not at all. The point is that your impact might not be known for years, if at all. I can guarantee this, though: One way or another, you do have an impact on others.
What’s your impact?
Are you being intentional about what that impact is?
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.