I have wondered about this many times and strangely enough…or maybe not so strange, I have been convinced the answer should be something big like End World Hunger or Effect World Peace. Those two things in itself, I think are rather high goals to set for yourself, by anyone’s standard. I am not financially or politically in a position to even look at one of these two examples, I’ve just mentioned. If I were, however, they would be at the top of my list of things to do. So where does it leave me?
The answer came to me, not so long ago, just before I started blogging on WordPress.com in fact. I used to be an introverted person, extremely shy and withdrawn. I had anxiety about talking to people and never wanted to be the centre of attention, I still don’t like the spotlight but I catch a glimpse of it and allow the light to touch me, once in a while. As I grew older, I felt myself morph into something completely different to that person. I can’t say I didn’t like the old me but I definitely prefer the new me, for sure. I started challenging myself to interact with others, network at social events and get to know people. In that, lies the answer to my question for this blog. I discovered that people have a need, not surprisingly though, to talk but more importantly for others to listen to them. They want to share about their life, their experiences, their sadness and their triumphs. For some, it’s not easy and for others, it flows like a river. I realise that this is a generalised statement, so I’ll follow it up with a “For some people this is true…”
I found that, not only could I offer a listening ear or shoulder to cry on but I can give advice and share my perspective to the point where it actually makes them feel better and it makes sense to them. They feel like (I’ve been told), they have gotten the answer to whatever is bothering them to begin with and walk away feeling either just better about themselves, have a new approach on a solution or just plain simply see the world in a different light. Now don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying I am the Oracle and have all the answers, far from it. However, you would be surprised just how far a kind word or helping to boost someone else’ self-esteem can go. Anyone can do it…in fact, you can too.
Try this simple thing…When you go to work tomorrow, say “Hello” to one of your colleagues, or even better someone you have seen but never talk to. (I find this works best in the kitchen at work or when someone comes to my desk) Say “Hi. How are you?” and wait for a response, the key is to be genuine in your question. One of two things will happen, they will respond with a “Hi” or just smile and walk away or they will actually talk to you and tell you how they are. I have found that the majority of people, don’t actually proceed to tell you how they are because:
a) They probably didn’t expect the question so their brain never registered that you had just asked that, or
b) They hear it but don’t expect that you meant it
I normally stand around waiting for the answer and if I see there is no answer forthcoming, I repeat the question but this time I start off by saying their name first. This normally catches them off-guard and quite pleasantly, brings a smile to their face and a response to my ears. Now, some people will say that they are fine and respond with the complimentary “And how are you?” but then walk away, which is absolutely fine. Others, would actually respond with something, that will be a real conversation starter. The beauty of this is:
a) You did not ask the question to be nosy and wanting to know their business or to be vindictive, you were being genuine, and
b) You get to know someone new a little better and quite often become a sounding board, which they might desperately need.
If you have something to offer in the form of an encouraging response, by all means, do so. If you don’t, be honest and tell them you have nothing and let them walk away first. You might just get an ending of “Thanks so much for listening”. Bam! Goal achieved. Now, there are two sides to doing this whole exercise:
a) You have just achieved the goal I described above but more importantly,
b) You will walk away feeling good about yourself
Something else that might happen, is that the same people will start coming to you for advice or to “off-load”. Strands of trust will have been built in you from the first interaction and although this might not be what you have set out to do, it quite possibly could happen. Prepare yourself for this as it is not an easy task. I find myself, even today, taking on the woes of the world and carrying it on my shoulders. This is not healthy and by no means the aim of the journey. You can listen but you don’t have to internalise anything, don’t take on the baggage. There’s a simple rule to adhere to…In the one ear and out the other as fast as it came, it was never yours for the taking…so don’t.
This is the cherry on the cake and something I liken to a bank deposit, similar to relationship deposits (assuming you have heard about this analogy before). The more you do this on a daily basis, the more you will feel the purpose of your life increase. You might not be able to help the world but you can start with just one person and in the end, you will have a feeling of such fulfilment during the process, be able to build on your own empathy skills, help your own self-esteem and boost your confidence. The icing on this cake, however, is the fact that as much as you get, you give because it is a two-way street. I’d like to believe the saying of “What goes around, comes around” in this approach. The person on the receiving end of what you have just done will, in time, end up doing the same for someone else and “Pay it Forward”.
Go on give it a go…you have Absolutely Nothing to Lose…