It’s pretty mind-blowing how many people we interact with on a daily basis.
There’s the neighbor picking up his newspaper as you walk by in the morning. The phone call you make to your mom on your way into work (not to mention the driver that cut you off as you were trying to exit). The coworker who likes to ask you far too many questions about your personal life. Your boss who can’t seem to understand you. Your exhausted daycare nanny. The Starbucks barista at the drive-through window who seems ready for her next break. The cashier at your grocery store who’s having trouble looking up the price of your avocados…
Some of these “relationships” last a total of 10 minutes and then you’re out the door, already forgetting about the person you interacted with; others have lasted at least ten years with people you’ve come to treasure dearly.
We’re constantly interacting with people—whether we’re making small-talk about the weather or pouring out our hopes and fears over coffee.
Whether we like it or not, every interaction we have with another person is impacting them in either a positive or negative way. Little things, like choosing patience over frustration with the teenager slowly learning how to plug in your lunch order, impacts that kid across the counter. And impacts us and the kind of person we’re trying to be.
I’m working to be a more positive presence in ALL of my relationships, not just the ones I think are more important than my five minute conversation with the woman I happened to meet in the elevator.
Honestly, we’re all screwed up, angry, tired, anxious, and more broken than we like to let on. Which means that we’re each much more like each other than we like to let on. Or even care to admit. I’d rather be a gift and blessing to those around me rather than just another source of pain, however minor that pain might be.
So far, I’ve come up with 4 important qualities to foster in all of your relationships, even the ones that last no more than 10 minutes:
None of the following qualities can be possible if we don’t take a moment to respect the person we’re interacting with. Make an effort to actually see the high school kid helping you bag your groceries, that new coworker trying to learn the ropes, or even your friend you’ve known for decades.
If it helps, actually look them in the eyes and take notice of their eye color and shape—something that is so unique to each individual. Make an effort to respect those around you and see them as people rather than seeing only a “slow cashier,” an “incompetent coworker,” or “obligations” to visit every holiday.
It’s funny how respect—recognizing people as people with personal hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows—often leads to compassion, another quality I’m trying to foster in all of my relationships.
Since I became a mom, I’ve found that I have much more compassion towards other moms I see trying to navigate mom life: grocery shopping while carrying a fussy baby or figuring out the best way to breastfeed in an environment that isn’t particularly accommodating. I feel for them, and I want to go out of my way to help because I’ve been there; I know the struggle.
Discovering these points of connection—these places to show compassion—can strengthen all of our relationships. To put it bluntly, none of us have our shit together. We’re all facing fears and anxieties that on some days feel much heavier than we let on. So offer up some compassion on a daily basis.
I’m not saying that you need to unload your life’s fears and anxieties at the guest services counter after the college kid working the afternoon shift asks you somewhat absentmindedly, “How are you doing today?” (though that would certainly deepen the relationship between the two of you).
I’m talking about being your genuine self towards those you interact with. Setting aside the masks we like to hide behind—the online profiles we like to construct—and being YOU. Wonderful, beautiful, work-in-progress you. That person is a hell of a lot more interesting than the façade you’ve created.
Being a humble person doesn’t mean belittling or degrading your own sense of self-worth. Humility means taking a genuine interest in the lives of other people and putting their interests above your own. It means acknowledging that you don’t “have it all together.” It means having the confidence to learn from those around you.
When we start to recognize what we can learn from other people, the world opens up in new and exciting ways. Especially when we consider how much of our culture is rooted in selfishness. What if humbling ourselves and thinking about the interests of others was the norm rather than the exception?
Obviously we can’t control how others are going to act towards us, but we can control our own thoughts and actions. And I’m trying to root my relationships in respect, compassion, honesty, and humility on a daily basis.
This stuff is tough sometimes. Which, as a recovering perfectionist, can be frustrating. It’s certainly easier to blog about than it is to actually practice. But if I can positively impact even one person that I interact with during my day, then I’d argue that the work is worth it.
What other qualities should I add to this list? I’m sure that we could come up with a lot more than 4 important qualities to foster in all of your relationships. How are you impacting those around you for the better?