I’m certain I am not the only person who has noticed that I am not acknowledged as much as I once was. I have to make more of an effort to meet eyes, exchange pleasantries and extend courteous gestures to others, because such understood methods of social interactions are now few and far between. I haven’t changed my bathing or brushing habits, so I have to assume it’s because we are too busy to notice each other.
One of my colleagues at my former school taught me this in a very subtle way. When I interacted with my coworkers, it was often because I needed something from them, and I didn’t think I had much time to be overly pleasant about it. I was never abrupt, but I didn’t do much in the way of acknowledgement. It took a couple of times of him responding to my request by saying, “Hi, how are you?” to make me realize that people come before tasks. After I figured it out, I transferred that teaching to my students, who would also forget my humanness. When they asked, “Why does my grade say this?” I would say, “Good morning. How are you?” They picked it up well before I did.
I had a huge crush on a guy in college, and he resurfaced after we graduated. We agreed to meet for dinner, and while we were talking, he suddenly changed topics. “You don’t really have much time for servers, do you?” I was offended, embarrassed, and had to ask him to clarify. He noted that I didn’t make eye contact, didn’t say “please” and “thank you,” and barely acknowledged our server’s existence. I knew better, as a former server and retail person. That was enough to make me turn on a dime; no server or retail worker can ever say that I have treated them poorly. I now notice when others are curt, less than friendly, or just plain rude.
Treating people well is a cornerstone to being a kind person, but it also has some nice return on that investment. I learned in Teacher School that the two most powerful groups of people in a school are the maintenance staff and the office administrative assistants. It took no effort on my part, but by simply recognizing everyone in my school as a human being who deserved to be respected, I was treated the same way in kind, with forgiven missed deadlines for paperwork and extra assistance in moving classroom furniture.
By the way, our cleaning lady’s name is Dawn, too.