The other day I stumbled upon a social media post in which the author shared how she follows a simple principle of sparing 10 seconds to thank anyone who has the courtesy to spare 10 seconds for her. I loved the post, and it got me thinking.
Many of us claim (or at least aspire) to be “people” people, but I wonder how people-oriented we truly are? The post made me realise that there’s at least one simple litmus test we can use to answer that question. While passing the test is certainly not a complete endorsement of our people-orientedness, failure of the test almost certainly reveals we might be less people-focused than we hope.
The litmus test is this:
What is our degree of self-initiative and/or responsiveness to communicate with people when we have nothing to gain out of the conversation? How do we respond to people with whom we have already engaged in a conversation where our continued conversation or response is important to the other party but not necessarily to us (e.g., it is not our highest priority or no longer serves our interests)?
To best identify with what I’m talking about, try to remember what it felt like being on the receiving end. Have you ever experienced any of the following?
What other situations have you experienced personally or professionally where the conversation was important to you but went silent?
How did this/these situation(s) make you feel? What emotions arose in you?
Having walked down memory lane recalling what it felt to be on the receiving end of this equation, the real question is whether we also do this to other people? While we might hate when we are the ones treated like this, do we do it to others?
We frankly can do very little about how other people choose to treat us. But we can do something about how we treat others. So if we shift the shoe to the other foot where we are the one with the conversational ball in our court, the hard question we have to ask ourselves is:
Who are the people I am “dissing” by failing to even give them the courtesy of a response?
As we reflect on that question, it may be only natural to get a bit defensive. Am I expected to respond to every person who reaches out to me? Not necessarily. I’m not at all suggesting that we have to respond to every email we get from any random person! If you are a person of notoriety, for example, you certainly cannot respond to every letter from every fan! But, when there is a conversation that we have (by our own free choice) chosen to engage in, should we not have the courtesy to continue or at least finish the conversation?
Granted, we may not even realise that we are doing it. Our intent could be to communicate, but we may leave people in the lurch without even realising it. There are many reasons we might be unresponsive. For example:
That brings me back to the 10-second idea. If we’ve chosen to engage with someone in a conversation, is it not just basic respect to continue the conversation until such time as we close the conversation, if we so choose?
How about you? How do you fare with this litmus test?
If your assessment is less than you wish, what are 2-3 changes you could make to show others the respect you wish you were demonstrating?