The other day I was in Cutlers, a small sandwich shop here in Utah (they’ve got an amazing turkey and avocado sandwich, by the way, and crazy-good sugar cookies).
It was early evening and they were about to close. I walked in and placed an order for a dozen sugar cookies (no, not all for me… although I could have eaten them all).
The gentleman at the counter took my order and my cash, gave me my change, and declared with an I’m-bored-out-of-my-mind voice “You’re number 288”.
“No, I’m Rusty” I thought. But then he handed me a little sheet of paper on which was scrawled the number 288, as if he’d read my mind and wanted to prove me wrong.
I looked around me. There was one other person in the shop, and she’d already gotten her order.
I laughed out loud, which earned me a quizzical expression from my little helper, and to which I replied “Never mind… thank you.”
Clearly, he didn’t understand the importance of being personal.
But it made me wonder at my own interactions with people, how often I must take on that same robotic approach. How often do I forget that the person I’m talking to is a person? That they’ve got a life, and right now it might not be going so well.
We all have areas in our lives that, due to repetition, cause us to be a bit too calloused in our interactions with people.
How would you feel if you drove up to the McDonalds window and the gal (instead of just reaching out for your money), looked at you in the eye, smiled, and said “Nice to see you, thanks for coming to McDonalds”, or “have a great evening, and enjoy your meal.”
Interacting with people can (and should) be one of the most regularly enriching aspects of our lives. Sometimes they’ve got a bit of spare energy, or humor, or wisdom that you can glean from. Sometimes it’s the other way around. But whatever it is, as you become more aware of the person to whom you’re talking, you’ll find that good things happen.
If we all tried to be just a bit more personal in our dealings with others, we’d find the world would be a better place.
P.S. Email, as well as other mediums of digital communications tends to exacerbate this problem even more. If your interactions with others are primarily digital, you’ll need to be extra vigilant, because you lack those visual cues that would otherwise guide your interaction.