Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Art of Smilemaking

Emerson said: "Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him."
If that was true of Emerson, isn't it likely to be a thousand times more for true of you and me? Let's cease thinking of our accomplishments and wants. Let's try to figure out the other person's good points. Then forget flattery. Give honest, sincere appreciation. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise, and people will cherish your words and treasure them and repeat them over a lifetime - repeat them years after you've forgotten them.
- Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

My morning started out rough. I didn't sleep well, woke up late, forgot it was "business casual" day at work and had no clean black pants (at least that fit me these days), Dallas tested my patience just a bit more than usual in the car on the way which was enough to push me over the edge.

I decided to counteract my nasty attitude with coffee and something overly sugary to eat from my favorite local coffee shop. I typically avoid this place in the morning because it is laden with giggly teenagers from the high school directly across the street ordering their single shot, extra caramel blended frappes with whip, and the line is about 80 deep. I decided to brave it today because I really needed the pick me up. I walked through the doors to meet a brunette girl, probably about 16 years old. She turned to me and spoke (in a beautiful English accent, might I add), "You are lovely." It was such a sincere compliment. She didn't say "nice handbag" or "I like your shoes", she said "You are lovely, and it came from one of the teenagers that I normally resent the presence of in my coffee shop. I didn't compliment back. I could have, I wanted to. She was a very cute girl with her make-up nicely done and was well put together, but I didn't want her to feel my praise was obligatory. I chose to simply smile and thank her.

When I got in the car and headed to my office, I immediately thought of a book each person on my team keeps a copy of on their desk; How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book was given to each us by our manager and in recent department meetings, we've been discussing one chapter per week. The excerpt quoted above is from the chapter called "Fundamental Techniques of Handling People". The chapter is all about giving honest, sincere admiration to the people around you and truly making a difference in the way they perceive themselves. It's not about shallow flattery, or trying to get ahead. It's about being "that" person, the one who really means it.

Carnegie also states, "Try to leave a friendly trail of little sparks of gratitude on your daily trips. You will be surprised how they will set small flames of friendship that will be rose beacons on your next visit." Next time you are at your local coffee shop and your drink was made well, tell the barista you're impressed. If your child runs to you, beaming, with a picture they just drew in hand, tell them how proud you are as well. When you see someone do a good deed for a stranger at the store without looking for recognition, let them know it didn't go unnoticed. Bubble with appreciation for little things that people do; it really is contagious and can start a ripple effect that can make 10 more people's days just a little better. If we all try to be "that" person every day, imagine how many more smiles can be created.

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