12 ways to make the world a friendlier place
In these times of division, disagreement and disconnection, we can make a difference by making strangers our friends
The girl on the phone
I was on my way to some training in and stopped to treat myself to a coffee in the station. As I sat and savored the time to just sit quietly and stare, my attention was snagged by a girl, of about 25, talking, what seemed to be loudly, on her phone to person after person about work. I noticed some irritation arising in me at ‘my quiet time’ being disturbed until the last call.
In the last call the girl suddenly squealed; ‘I’ve just had a text through, our offer has been accepted on the house we’re buying! We’ve got a house!’. Her excitement and relief was palpable and she was beaming. As she finished the call she looked over sheepishly and apologized for being loud but my irritation had gone and I just felt so pleased for her.
At the same time as I gave her a thumbs up and said how happy I was for her, a guy at another table also gave her a round of applause. We all made eye contact and smiled as she told us how long she had been looking and how pleased she was to have a home of her own.Then she left, I went to pay and the guy had gone by the time I returned and yet my day felt different.
We had shared a moment together; 3 strangers, just 3 or 4 minutes and then the moment was gone, but in that moment we connected and shared happiness and support. It was lovely and left me feeling glowing as I left the station; and got lost.
The proud mum
As I was standing trying to make sense of the map, a lady came over and asked if she could help. She told me how she was in town to visit her son, how they were going for lunch, how proud she was of him.We connected, smiled together, shared a bit about our day ahead and then moved on.
The mobile phone hero Matt
Then there was Matt in a mobile phone shop, my hero. I had dropped my phone the night before and needed to replace it. Matt worked for 2 hours, (half an hour past his end of shift) to help me not only get a new phone but to save and transfer as much data as he could salvage. He was patient, determined, funny, polite and reassuring. When one thing didn’t work (and it looked like I only had 5 contacts rather than 600), he tried another, then another.
I was a stranger, yes a customer, but it would have been much easier and quicker for him to tell me the data was lost and there was nothing to be done. But 2 hours later I left with a new phone and 500 contacts.I also left with a real sense of having been taken care of, of having had my needs seen, understood and met. I left with a feeling of appreciation of Matt and his persistence and ability to problem solve.
Call center star Gill
Finally, yesterday I had to contact a call center.The first person I spoke to told me how sorry she was but there was nothing she could do.For some reason I called back later and spoke to Gill.Gill listened to what I needed and spent time giving me information, explaining and reassuring me until we came to a solution that was much, much better than I could have imagined.Gill spent a long time on the phone with me.She emailed me information; she called back when she said she would, she problem solved and took care of me.
The world is a friendly place
In these weeks where the media is full of stories of disharmony, of disagreement of rupture and separation these last 48 hours have served to remind me how very simple connection can be. Relationships can form and end in 3 minutes and yet leave all concerned feeling richer and supported.So what were the conditions that allowed for these connections?
How to connect
- Be friendly – when we are friendly, other people are more likely to respond to us as a friend.
- Decide to connect – don’t wait for the other person, be the one to reach out
- Be curious – curious about the other person, curious about the situation, curious about what is going on for you.
- Listen – Listen to understand and to find commonality rather than to judge, to disagree or to argue
- Be supportive – and allow yourself to be supported
- Drop your ego – forget how you look, what other people think of you, what you should or shouldn’t do.Forget about being right or being best and just be there with and for the other person.
- Look for solutions and create possibilities
- Be vulnerable – show how you feel, let people see the real you, when we are authentic we create authentic connections
- Laugh a lot - laugh at yourself, the situation.Never ever laugh anyone apart from yourself.
- Be patient – thing will take the time they take
- Be real - about what you need, what you can and can’t do , about the struggle you’re facing
- Trust that the other person is OK – there are very few people in the world who want to do harm, most of us are just getting on with our own lives and doing the best we can do.
“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” (the Talmud)When we meet another person we meet them as we are as well as how they are. If we want a world where there is harmony, peace and connection then we have to meet the world in that way. We have to be the change we want to see in the world (Ghandi)