Three and a half years ago, my mother took a one-way flight to Heaven. After her departure, I began to think about the lessons she taught me. My mother was probably the quintessential extraordinaire when it came to the art of being polite, personable, and demonstrating the personal touch. Like many parents, she drummed into us the importance of saying “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome,” which was not unusual during the era in which I was raised. In addition, she went overboard with acknowledging people’s birthdays, anniversaries, and special events. When it came to her own children, she sent cards and gifts on other days as well, recognizing Valentine’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other day that merited attention. God forbid if we did not reciprocate. People who were acquainted with my mother always appreciated her acknowledgment of their special day at even an older age when such notifications were almost null. Now my mother was a bit over the top when it came to such occasions, but I am most appreciative of her persistence about the importance of being polite, personable, and demonstrating the personal touch.
Many years ago, I was walking across a very busy street with bags in each hand. I was trying to get to my office, and traffic was relentless. Finally, some decent soul allowed me to cross the street. As I hurried along, I did not acknowledge the person who, unlike many others, politely stopped their car to allow me to pass. Moving along without saying thank you, this particular driver shouted out to me “You are welcome.” I realized how right he was and turned around and shouted out a hearty, “Thank you.” I never forgot this small but significant act of kindness, and since that time, I have not forsaken my embedded need to practice the art of being polite with a “thank you.”
Being polite with authenticity is truly an art. Expressions of gratitude should be heartfelt and not rote. Not only does it convey to the giver you are sincere, but giving it all you have makes you, the recipient, feel good. Try it out! You will begin to notice a warm inner feeling by revealing your appreciation.
I get it. Not everyone is an extrovert, which may make it challenging to be friendly and engaging. With that said, we have to function in society, so what do you have to lose by trying even minimally to being personable?
First thing, start with a smile! If it is difficult, practice, practice, and practice. When you are walking down the street and catch someone’s eye, smile and say, “Hello.” Most of the time, it will be reciprocated. Even in so-called aloof New England, this is effective. How do I know? Because often, I give it a try.
Second, whether you are in the grocery store, a bank, or any other place you are serviced, say “hello” with a form of “how are you?” These employees whom you encounter and are tirelessly putting out food or dealing with money are often diligent workers, on their feet much of the day, and possibly feeling invisible. A friendly exchange can make a world of difference. You do not know how you might impact them. In fact, we often may never know, but what if they are having a bad day? A warm interaction can alter their outlook even temporarily.
Ah, the Personal Touch
Finally, the personal touch is the supreme form of appreciation and recognition! The polite and the personable are a part of this, but there is more. How about the old-fashioned but ageless personal connection? Yes, I am talking about the world before texting, e-mailing, facebooking, tweeting, linking in, gmailing, and other forms of impersonal communication? Truly, there is nothing like the personal touch! A thank you note that is written with your unique penmanship and tailored specifically for the person at hand is irreplaceable.
Although texts and e-mails can be efficient, more effective is a phone call with a human voice and all of the nuanced emotions that accompany it. How about face-to-face contact? Along with other species, we are social beings, and although some require more communication with a living creature than others, everyone wants it in some form. Remember the film Cast Away? Tom Hanks plays a survivor who is stranded on an island for years. He creates a face on an inanimate object just to experience something remotely familiar. How about infants’ ability to thrive and attach? Without the warmth of human connection, they often suffer irreparable damage. As much as AI and robotic exchanges are on the rise, I hypothesize nothing will ever replace the human relationship.
Finally, no matter how people try to measure behavior, some expressions are immeasurable such as the healing power of love. Along with kind and thoughtful human beings, the unconditional love of a pet is often a corrective experience, especially for those who have suffered irrevocable loss. We humans are most blessed to have these incredible creatures as a part of our lives. They provide an abundance of love and ask for so little. Although some would debate the intelligence of canine and feline companions, for this particular matter, well, does it really matter? Whether or not they realize it, these furry four-legged creatures’ generous offerings of warmth and cuddles to a willing recipient are examples of the power of the personal touch.
Think about the power of connection and the personal touch! They can make all of the difference in the world. Comforting words, a heartfelt hug, cradling a child, or petting a welcoming four-legged friend are invaluable. You cannot put a price tag on them.
Do you believe in the art of the polite, the personable, and the personal touch? If you haven’t focused on these three elements, notice not only how the other person experiences it, but also how these gestures might transform you. Begin to make a concerted effort, and watch what happens! You will be simply amazed by its power of helping you get unstuck.
Darlene Corbett is a keynote speaker, success coach, and licensed therapist who is committed to helping people become “unstuck” through visualization and scripting so that they can live their lives to the fullest. Her book Stop Depriving the World of You: A Guide for Getting Unstuck is available to purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other fine retailers.