Have you ever sat at a park or a mall, or even in your home, and watched people? (You know…you don’t stare, but you probably are paying more attention to them in that moment than you did for your entire seventh grade year…)
First, you watch one person, then you watch another person, then if you’re lucky, you get to watch an interaction between them. If you’re like me, there are numerous times when you’d like to jump up and intervene. You see problems brewing and neither person is aware of how it’s happening. It’s usually something small, body language, for example. Or maybe a group is gathering and it is clear that no one is comfortable making introductions. It may be many small things, but regardless, it adds up to a less-than-stellar human interaction.
This happens in the professional world all the time. In this arena though, the vantage points are usually vaster than a park bench and hurt feelings may be the least of your worries. By either not knowing or not paying attention to the intricacies of civil, decent human interactions, you could be losing a customer, losing money, or even, losing your job.
The people in the organizations with whom I work tell funny, embarrassing, and just plain rude stories about co-workers, vendors, and, of course, about themselves. One employee, for example, didn’t understand how to properly greet her clients. In the middle of a discussion about greeting clients, Ms. M casually announced that she routinely “kissed all of them!” Her co-worker, a rather frustrated-looking Ms. R, turned to her and said, “I know you do. That’s why you get all the clients.” (We skillfully worked our way through this with some active listening and mirroring. As for the issue of client greetings, it quickly became an agenda item on the company’s next board meeting…)
As you can see, civil engagement has much to do with being mindful in each of your interactions with others. You need to have the intention to be decent, but that’s only one half of the equation. You also need to be equipped with the tools necessary to SHOW that decency to others—whether at the park or the office.