Welcome to 2019. I think it will be appropriate to start the year by talking about kindness and courtesy. Aesop’s tale about the ant and the dove gives a nice opening to the discussion.An ant was living under the oak tree. Both the dove and the ant were friends.
One day a strong wind was blowing across the tree. The ant could not withstand and fell into the river. It could not get out and was drowning.
The dove saw this and wanted to save his friend. So, it threw a leaf into the water and asked the ant to climb atop to save its life. The ant got on the leaf. It was saved.
Just then a hunter with bow and arrow came that way and tried to shoot the dove. The quick thinking ant scurried over to the hunter and bit him on the foot. The hunter yelled in pain, causing him to misfire. The arrow whizzed past the dove, which quickly flew away to safety. It repaid the dove for the kind act.
Moral – “One good deed deserves another”
Kindness: Behavior marked by ethical characteristics, a pleasant disposition, and concern and consideration for others. It is considered a virtue, and is recognized as a value in many cultures and religions
Courtesy: Behavior marked by polished manners or respect for others
Perspectives: Did your mother ever tell you; “be nice to people you meet because you may meet them later in life and may need their assistance”? How nice are you to people you meet in the workplace, at social engagements, and spiritual gatherings? Considering we spend more time in the office than in our homes, how nice are we to our fellow colleagues, customers, etc.
Lots of people prefer to have relationships with people only in their social class or management cadre. We hardly know the names of the cleaners, security operatives etc. Some people are only nice to the boss and colleagues of the same cadre. Courtesy and being considerate of others (empathy) can open up unexpected opportunities especially in business and services. In my few years of banking, I’ve noticed that the richest people are the most unassuming individuals. They dress simply, walk into the banking hall and most times ignored because of their outlook. These are people who have really worked hard for their funds. Not the get rich quick people who come across some little income and immediately think the world of themselves.
David Noonan in his book Aesop & the CEO related the story of an elderly lady who walked into a store in Philadelphia to avoid the rain. She was generally ignored by the store attendants, however, one respectful clerk walked up to her and asked if she needed help. She replied that she was not interested in buying anything; she just wanted to get out of the rain and wait till it goes down. The clerk had the choice of ignoring her since she wasn’t buying anything, rather he brought her a chair so she can be comfortable.
When the rain eventually stopped, the lady asked the clerk for his card and left. Several months later, the owner of the store received a letter form the elderly lady; in the letter she requested for the clerk who had been courteous and hospitable to her to be sent to Scotland to help her furnish an entire castle. The woman turned out to be the mother of billionaire Andrew Carnegie.
In another story, Georgia resident Tracy Warshal was getting ready to check out at her local Aldi grocery store when she noticed that the man in front of her in line didn’t have his wallet…He only had a few items, and his total was just eight dollars, so Tracy paid for his things and wished him a “Merry Christmas!” The man asked her for her first name, which she gave him without thinking anything of it.
When she was at work the following week, Tracy was shocked to learn that the man had tracked her down by her “Piedmont Healthcare” shirt and had made a $10,000 donation to the company’s cancer institute in her name!
The company notified her that the donation had been made and that the man wished to remain anonymous. Tracy had hoped he’d pay forward the kindness she’d showed him, but she had no idea that her simple act would have such a big impact! That’s incredible! It just goes to show that even the simplest gestures can be hugely meaningful!
I remember as the manager of a bank some eighteen years ago, I had gone marketing with one of my staff to meet this lady who sells rice in one of the markets in Lagos and she was so unassuming complained that her challenge with current bankers was cash shortages whenever they take their daily sales to the bank, my team preferred some solutions and she agreed to give us a try by starting with a certain collection on a daily basis which I thought was a bluff but turned out to be true and after just one month and being satisfied tripled her lodgment making her one of the biggest customer of the branch. Can imagine if I we snubbed her, judged her based on her look and location, but courtesy and respect brought a business that gave the branch then a monthly turnover of N400 million ($4.8 million).
Moral: Treat potential customers with the same respect as longtime customers
Lastly, how do you treat junior colleagues at work? I have seen circumstances change and junior colleagues move up the ladder not in the same organization and previous senior colleagues now join the new organization as subordinates. If you were to leave your organization today what will your colleagues say about you? Did you make emotional deposits while there or made emotional withdrawals? Although the workplace is not popularity contest, being assertive and empathic helps to make a difference.
Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. In the field of psychology and psychotherapy, it is a learnable skill and mode of communication. Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines assertiveness as:
A form of behavior characterized by a confident declaration or affirmation of a statement without need of proof; this affirms the person’s rights or point of view without either aggressively threatening the rights of another (assuming a position of dominance) or submissively permitting another to ignore or deny one’s rights or point of view.
Empathy: The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner also : the capacity for:
The imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
In 2019, choose to make a difference, choose to impact lives, choose to be respectful, choose to be courteous, choose to be kind, choose to be assertive, choose to be empathic and choose to go the extra mile.
Have a wonderful and successful year.
Noonan, David, Aesop & the CEO. Nelson Books, 2005.