How to improve communication: Shower people with humanity

There’s plenty to divide us—geography; cultural and racial background; gender and age; language and education; political views and intelligence, etc. etc. But there is something we all have in common—we are all human, and we are influenced by the behavior of those around us.

As we are all human, it should seem simple to demonstrate “humanity” to others. But sometimes we forget the value of inserting humanity to every interaction in our lives. And it is when we forget about humanity that anger, and aggression, and fear result.

Being human—demonstrated through friendliness, openness and simply listening and connecting with others, can transform behavior from surly to friendly in a matter of seconds.

The type of humanity I’m talking about could be seen as “being polite” or “being friendly” it is simple behavior that can make someone’s day. And that someone might be you.

They say that showing gratitude to others brings happiness to the giver. Another way of saying this is that sometimes it is better to give than receive.

So what do I mean by “humanity”—it is the simple act of remembering that everyone you come in contact—from your wife, to the train conductor, to the elevator repair guy, is dealing with a somewhat similar set of ups and downs that you are.

Humanity sometimes gets lost while typing a text message or rushing to get your Vente Vanilla Latte before the conference call starts. When was the last time you looked the barista straight in the eye and said “thanks. I really appreciate your service” or started a email message with “Hello Steve, I hope you had a great weekend…” As we live more and more of our lives outside of a face-to-face world, it seems that humanity is getting a little lost.

And that’s just a darn shame—and a missed opportunity for a happier, more productive and less stress-ridden life.

Here are three recent examples of witnessing the value of humanity at work:

Case #1:

I had a client come into my office on Monday morning and immediately begin to pelt me with barrage of questions about the “status of this,” and “the location of that,” and “the cost of doing this thing or that.” After he finished this rather aggressive, and one-way communication towards me, I simply looked at him, smiled, wished him a “good morning” and begin answering his questions. By stopping for a moment, and by acknowledging the humanity in the room, I disarmed his aggressive behavior, and brought our conversation to a much more human—and productive level.

Case #2:

While traveling through the airport last month, I said hello to the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) security officer as she checked my boarding pass and ID. I asked her if she was having a good day, and smiled at her. At first she looked at me like I was from another planet, then she smiled back and said, “thank you for asking. Yes, today is a good day.”

Case #3:

I was at lunch the other day at a restaurant in New York City, where I witnessed two young men—neither over the age of twenty, sat down to have lunch, ate some bread and drank some water, then decided not to stay for lunch. They very graciously left a big tip for the waitress, and explained their plans to her before they departed. It was a simple gesture that made both the young men and the waitress. If they had left without this very human interaction—both parties would have felt bad—the men would have felt they cheated the waitress, and the waitress would have been angered by the men’s inpolite behavior.

So here is my checklist for living a happier life, and turning frowns upside down with everyone you come in contact with:

Show gratitude to everyone who demonstrates humanity towards you—it is easily done with a smile or a “thank you.”

Put yourself in the other person’s shoe before you lash out at someone—take a minute before you growl or yell.

Imagine, with delusional positivity, that no one around you is there to hurt you, anger you or inconvenience you—the fact is, 90% of the time they’re not!

And, always remember  singer/songwriter James Taylor--“Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel.

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