How Do You Want to Be Remembered?
“People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said but they will always remember how you made them feel.” ~Dr. Thomas L. Garthwaite
When someone leaves an interaction with you, do you have any idea what the underlying feeling they walk away with is? Do they walk away feeling good about the conversation and happy to have seen you? Or are they stewing over feeling judged, attacked or unheard and contemplating elaborate schemes to avoid you? How do you want people to feel after an interaction with you?
How someone feels after time with us is influenced by a combination of all the different nuances associated with their perceptions and state of mind and our energy, body language, attention and focus. Do they walk away feeling acknowledged, empowered, valued, motivated, a sense of urgency or a general sense of positive energy? Or is the vibe you’re sending leaving them feeling down, in the way of your busy schedule, unsure of direction, unimportant, frustrated or just a general unpleasant sense of negativity?
Below is to get you started in thinking of the subtle, and not so subtle, ways we influence the way someone feels. How does it make you feel when someone is this way with you? Are you aware of the feedback you’re constantly getting with regards to whether you’re communicating what you intended? My daily prayer is that I am a positive influence on those I come in contact with on any given day. Sometimes being a positive influence though means saying something difficult with as much compassion as possible or lighting a fire under someone because that is what is in their best interest (and the company’s, if at work) best interest. Even when our intentions are good, how we say what we say and how we show up matters. So be conscious and respectful of the impact you have on people with how you make them feel.
- Are you distractedly typing away on your phone, responding to emails, looking over their shoulder at whoever is walking by and making them repeat themselves multiple times? Or are you focused, asking pertinent questions, fully grasping what they are saying so you can quickly & efficiently address any concerns and answer questions or just be the sounding board they need?
- Are you genuinely happy to see someone and it shows, you're focused on them and the opportunity to have time with them? Or are you in your head, distracted by all the “very important” things you must do? If what you are distracted by is indeed critical and requires your attention, can you apologize and ask that you meet at another time when you're able to focus? But beware...stop to be clear on priorities and what is truly most important. If every job demand is indeed more important than that relationship then go for it, but don't be surprised when you lose that relationship. Depending on the relationship that may be perfectly fine, just make it a conscious choice about the message you are sending.
- Are you always late and disruptive when you do arrive? Do you consistently send a message that says their time isn't as important as yours?
- Are you truly listening? Are you hearing not just the words but all of what is being said? Or are you in your head thinking of what you’ll say next or how can get the conversation onto what you want to talk about? We’re often so worried about what we’ll say next or distracted that we miss getting the entire picture. Sometimes our miss is blatant, you ask a question that had you been listening was already answered. Sometimes the miss is more subtle. You wonder in a meeting why people are rolling their eyes or looking at the floor as you’re speaking, only to later realize you missed that key players are not on board because you missed the body language. To be effective, we have to listen with all our senses, not just the words someone is saying but also their body language, tone, their style of communication, the body language of those around the table, the exchanged glances during a meeting, etc.
- Are you considerate of others? Do you remember things about them or that they’ve said? Return phone calls or emails in a reasonable amount of time.
- Is your tone and pace communicating what you want it to?
- In a tense situation, are you calm or are you yelling? If you are yelling, does it get their attention because it must be serious if you’re yelling? Or do you yell all the time so all they think is “Here we go again, I’ve really got to find another job, friend, spouse, etc.”? Are the engaged and present? Clear on what you’ve said and what is needed, feeling empowered and motivated. Or have they missed your point? Are they in defense mode, scrambling in fear and focusing on how it “wasn’t their fault” because they feel attacked?
- Do you seek first to understand and then to be understood? Or do you jump ahead, think you’ve got it all figured out after a few words and go into “fix it” or attack mode”?
- Are you frowning and generally rigid? Or do you smile and maintain open curiosity?
- Are you angry a lot? If so, is it directed at this person or are you projecting it at them because they happen to be the one that’s in front of you right now.
- Do you make eye contact and nod with encouragement at appropriate times? Or are your eyes shifting uncomfortably all over the place? Or are you staring with a somewhat glazed over look, nodding rapidly and excessively (pretty much screaming “I am not grasping a thing you are saying but keep going so I can get this over with.”).
- Are you paying attention to the actual interaction you’re having in the moment? Or are you emotionally hung up on the one you had with this person yesterday? The one that has you seething and contemplating all the ways you want them to suffer?
BELIEVE ME, I write from first hand experience and am guilty of almost every single thing here. I still catch myself typing away on my phone like a trained monkey when I shouldn’t be or am slow to respond to an email when things get hectic or forget to take a minute to just say hello. We’re all a work in progress, so please cut yourself and others a little slack. The awareness this quote created though has made me better and I hope it does the same for you.
I believe that ultimately each of us is the only one truly responsible for how we feel. I choose how to react or respond to any given situation or person. And yet, there are people you want to be around and people you don’t. There are people that inspire, motivate and lead others to greatness and there are people that lack vision, de-motivate and drain you, and instill fear and a “just enough to get by and stay out of trouble” mentality.
How do you want to be remembered?
And so I strive for progress, not perfection. Be perfect? Not so much. Do better today than I did yesterday and keep improving? This I can do.