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The Most Important Skill When Interacting With People

As a 20+ year Human Resources Professional, I still get asked the question, "how do you 'do' Human Resources everyday?" Before I get a chance to answer, this is usually followed-up by the person asking with the phrase, "Because, I could never 'do' HR."

First of all, let's be clear, we all interact with other human beings all the time, so, therefore, to some degree, we all 'do' HR.

My personal approach: I'm just 'doing' me.

A mentor once told me that every person you meet, no matter how happy they appear on the outside, is dealing with serious challenges in their life because life is friggin' hard. So . . .

"When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble and you will be right more than half the time.”—Henry Eyring

This statement was (and still is) incredibly powerful to me.

Most of the people that we meet are going through some challenges. Some of the people that we meet are going through bitter, chilling challenges and for the most part, we have no idea. We just pass them at work, or church, the bank or in the grocery store, or even at our own family gatherings.

Challenge yourself to embrace courage and candor and go up to someone, interact and be kind. It's not difficult to do. It happens here in Eureka Springs more often than not. This is part of the reason this town is so engaging; people actually engage with other people.

When professionally facilitating training in the workplace, I encourage questions. It's important to me to always drive toward a safe learning environment that welcomes radical candor. I do my best to be aware of the power of my words and to deliver information from a place of good intent. Everyone is here to learn and grow.

When not facilitating, I do my very best to carry these same attributes forward in one-on-one interactions personally. This approach has been invaluable.

In the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey tells the story of being on a locomotive passenger train one day. While on the train, there were two very noisy kids causing a disturbance to everyone around them. Covey noticed that the father was just sitting there and doing nothing about it. After a period of restraint, Covey approached the father and said:

“Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely.
Everything changed in an instant.

Live With More Compassion

If you treat every person you meet like they are dealing with a serious challenge, you’ll be right more than half the time. If you entreat people with love, kindness, empathy, appreciation and discernment, they will, in turn, appreciate you in so many ways. Doing this is instantly trust-building. Show people this attribute and everything will begin to change for the better all around you.

Sharing a few kind words with our loved ones refreshes them like cool water in the middle of the desert. Small gestures bring hope and motivation. Take time to ask people how they are really doing in their life. Tell them that you know they are going through a lot. Empathize. Actively listen.

How do you think they’ll respond?

Very few people are compassionate and considerate.

In Eureka Springs, AR (my home), compassion and consideration are aplenty in our adorable community. . . and yet, we could all still use a bit more.

For instance, people here work like absolute warriors in their jobs. Day in-and-out they often provide some kind of service to someone, usually a visitor to Eureka. Many have two, or even three jobs and they juggle schedules that zig-zag them around town constantly.

One day, before we relocated our residence here, we were tourists ourselves. When we went to Local Flavor for lunch we were greeted and served by a lovely food and beverage server. She made the experience truly exceptional for us and other guests around us as well.

As this was our very first experience to this restaurant and Eureka Springs, and she made a first impression on us that instantly sparked further desire to discover more about what Eureka Springs has to offer.

We finished lunch. We shopped. Went back to our Treehouse to nap and then went out for dinner at The Bavarian Inn and voila - our lovely lunch server, still very hard at work, greeted and served us again for our next meal of the day and she was even more exceptional in this new role as our lovely dinner server.

What made this interaction truly special for all of us was that we took the time to tell her so. Her reaction was simply delightful. She beamed. Smiled. Lit up. Walked taller. Blushed.

It took but a moment to pay this person this kind compliment and to let her know about the impression she bestowed upon us about this town, the people of this town and the sunny disposition Eureka displays everywhere you go. She truly embodied that sunny disposition in her every interaction with all people at both restaurants.

In HR, we call those people "the best employees." Not because they can deliver a glass of orange juice to you in less than 30 seconds, but because of how they execute the task. They simply live their best into every interaction that they are having with another person. They're living into their values through their exceptional behavior, even when doing something simple, easy, repetitive, monotonous. They're truly engaging with others and they are engaged in the work that they are there to perform. It's the simple difference between getting OJ delivered with a smile, eye-contact and an maternal-sort-of-touch to your shoulder versus no smile, a grunt, and slamming the glass down on your table. Both can deliver OJ in less than 30 seconds but one is the best employee and one is not. It's the difference between a transaction and an interaction.

Our service providers here in Eureka are the most caring, loving, hardworking people. Now that we live here full-time, this gives us more opportunity to observe many interactions between people and it's to our amazement how much we witness the dishing out of unnecessary behavior from people who don’t appreciate what is happening right in front of them as they interact with another human being. This goes for both sides of an interaction.

It’s crazy how a small and thoughtful compliment, smile, hug, handshake, etc. can positively impact the exchange happening between two people - and what lack impacts as well.

Harriet Beecher Stowe once said, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”

You have no idea what the people in your world are currently dealing with. If you treat them like they are going through something powerful (and they likely are) you’ll be right more often than not.

More importantly, take a moment, in that very moment, to be the balm of peace and understanding. Lean in. Welcome their energy and be kind. It may very well help you out as well.

I don't just work in human resources and live in Eureka Springs every day because I have to. I do it because it energizes me as a human being. Making the choice to work in HR allows me to have influence and impact on other people and to show my kindness, empathy, love and care - all day, every day.

Choosing to live in Eureka? Well, this choice has offered so much of course, but here I also have influence and impact on people because I choose to outwardly show my kindness, empathy, love and care to locals, friends, neighbors and visitors alike - all day, every day.

If you actively listen to one person tell you about their day, and you make them feel heard, seen and valued, you could indirectly change countless other lives through the ripple effects of that one interaction.

  • You could change someone’s life today.

  • You could potentially save someone’s life today.

  • Send that text to a friend.

  • Make that call to a loved one.

  • Apologize to a co-worker or employee.

  • Tell Mom you love her.

  • Send a loving note of appreciation to your spouse/lover.

  • Say “I love you” more.

There are people in your life that haven’t been thanked for all of their efforts in far too long.

Find them.

Thank them.

Appreciate them.

Do it.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou


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