Entering the holiday season has many of us thinking of the gift of giving, to not only family and friends but also strangers. Money is particularly nice to receive, so we know it’s an ideal go-to gift when it comes to donating, tipping, and supporting others’ ventures. However, there are other presents we may offer those whose paths we cross this (and every) season. I’ll tell you a little story, if you’ll let me indulge…
I recently traveled to Dallas to present at a professional conference. On day one, my presentation was scheduled for the first slot at 8:00 a.m. Anyone who’s been graced with my presence at that time knows mornings are not my thing, to understate it. Jet-lagged, caffeine-deprived, I squirm from under the sheets, start steaming water for my tea, shimmy into the shower and hype myself up to “Music Makes Me High.” I’m still tired. It feels like the wear and tear of adjusting to a new job, working long hours and traveling frequently are catching up to me all at this very moment. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to the other side of the massive conference hotel and deliver a winning presentation. I don’t think I have any of myself left to give. So, there I am leaning heavily against the window, zoning out to the glowing sunrise above the city skyline.
“Hello, would you like your room serviced today?”
I turn back to my tossed towels and rumpled sheets. “Uh, yeah. Yes please,” I shout as I head to the door. The cleaning lady enters. She’s young. I estimate she’s about 19 years old. She smiles and begins tidying the space. She asks me if I’m here for the conference and inquires about what we do at this conference. I explain that it’s a convening of tons communications scholars, professionals and professors from around the country. She squints at me in mild disbelief and asks if I do that kind of work. She says I don’t look old enough and my students must think I’m one of them.
The cleaning lady is now my best friend.
Her name is Ké. She tells me she couldn’t take my classes because I talk about the news media and that gets boring for her. She doesn’t think she can make it through college, because school just isn’t for her. I ask Ké what she wants to do. At first she shrugs, “I’m still not sure.” She says she knows she wants to move on from working at the hotel because she wants to do better for her son. So, I probe with questions about her interests and hobbies, the same way I do with my students and mentees when I’m helping them through career soul-searching. She finally comes out with her interest in studying finance and pursuing a career in that field, and I am able to guide her through the first steps in reaching those goals.
That morning, I found enough in me to share. Of course, I tipped her for her work, but I chose to give more than the standard. I spoke with her about her dreams for a few minutes the next day and the next, until I left. With every bit of time and mentorship I gave each morning, I received so much more from her positive spirit. I felt re-energized by her hope and her friendship for those few days. With that, I had enough in me to deliver my presentation, serve on two panels, attend several sessions and events, plus fulfill my Public Relations Chair duties for my division.
On my last day at the hotel, the cleaning lady – no, my new friend, Ké brought me a small, thoughtful gift of treats that she learned I liked. I turned over the card attached to read her expression of gratitude for the time I took out of my schedule to talk with her and brighten her past few days at work. I was humbled and reminded that giving is not simply good etiquette. It rejuvenates us and keeps us connected.
May your season be an abundant cycle of giving.
There’s this little café in my neighborhood that I love to patronize. They always make my caramel latte with almond milk, just the way I like it. Their attention to customization and meeting the customer’s needs is superior. Dare I say, it’s even better than Starbucks!
Well, the other day in this perfect little coffee house, I witnessed a common offense take place. A guy made himself comfy at one of the tables, set up his laptop, logged onto the free WiFi and started surfing away. Then, he took a sip out of his 24 oz. McDonald’s cup!
One of the owners noticed this and demanded that the WiFi moocher leave immediately. As the (non)customer begged to finish his drink and Internet session, the owner explained a very valid point. This is a business and their particular business is coffee. Every time someone buys coffee in another shop, brings it into their café and uses the WiFi at no cost, they lose on at least three fronts:
1. You spent you’re money somewhere else;
2. You’ve given the other shop free advertising in this establishment; and
3. You’re jamming up the Internet for all their paying customers while getting service without giving back to the business.
Most businesses cannot afford to support freeloaders, but small businesses, especially, cannot bear that burden. If you want your favorite shops to stay in business, then help them out by showing a little consideration. Don’t be that guy.
So much has happened this week (positive and negative) in America. Colossal Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action, same-sex marriage, and voting rights were handed down. Senator Wendy Davis of Texas took a stand for women’s rights in matters of abortion and actress Angelina Jolie brought the matter of rape during war times to the world stage. Television’s cooking sensation Paula Deen is being held accountable for making racially insensitive comments and demands on employees. The case against George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin began and key witness have recounted the events of that night. The list continues.
As gay rights, racism and women’s rights are brought to the forefront, we are seeing many of the struggles and tensions in the country come to a head. We may be preparing to start a new phase as a nation. Who knows what is to come. What we do know is that our children need us through it all. We must guide them and teach them to be better. They will be the ones to lead us out of the murky present and into a brilliant future. So today, I implore you to be good to our children, all children.
Please speak love into our children. Speak truth and beauty and kindness to their spirits. Let them know from the beginning that they are enough, they matter and they are powerful. Allow them to be smart and creative in their own ways, and let them express it. Teach them to think for themselves and to explore all areas of their interest. Teach them their value so that they may go into the world confidently and boldly. Do it now, so that they may flourish tomorrow. Do it now, so that we may have a tomorrow.
Take some time to do something nice for your dad or a dad in your life today. Let them know they are special and they’re doing a great job.
This year at the 85th Academy Awards, the lovely Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress for her role in “Silver Linings Playbook.” As she ascended the stairs to accept her award, she stumbled in excitement.
What to do, what to do when you trip and fall on your face at the biggest event of the year? I certainly speak from experience on this, since I’ve managed to do it on many fabulous occasions. The only way to handle it is to fall all the way out and play it all the way up! Don’t try to hide it, play it off, or downplay it. You just have to go for the full sympathy of the crowd. Make them feel like they have to check that you are OK before they react. Then, at that point, you have two gracious options: 1. stay put and look completely distraught; or 2. get up and burst into laughter, signaling that it is alright for everyone else to laugh with you – not at you. Lastly, you can mention the blunder to take the edge off and put everyone (yourself included) at ease.
When we think of holding engaging, powerful conversations, the first thing that comes to mind is mastering the art of persuasive speaking. While there is magic in persuasion, one of the most powerful tools of a leader is the ability to listen.
You are tossing the idea around in your mind, right? Surely, the way to control a discussion, direct the flow of ideas, and get someone to jump on your bandwagon is to use your words to convince and even manipulate. Yet, think about how much more likely you are to hear someone out and consider their point of view when you feel like they’ve been paying attention to you. You’re more willing to do something they’ve requested or give them what they’re asking for if you feel like that person has taken the time to listen to you and has shown a deep interest in what you think or feel. Beyond that realization, consider that the only way to know how to build an argument to budge others from their stance is to listen to them and figure out from which angle to approach their way of thinking. There within lies the compelling strength of a master conversationalist. If you are striving to become a great leader and influential figure, it’s worth it to acquire the following listening skills:
1. Don’t cut others off while they are talking. It’s disrespectful and it makes them feel like their ideas are being devalued. Be patient and let them finish their thought.
2. Actually pay attention. Avoid getting so caught up in coming up with a rebuttal or good come back line that you completely miss what the other person is expressing.
3. Use the various nonverbal gestures that let a person know you are present and connected. Try these nonverbal cues:
4. Ask questions related to what the other person is talking about. That is a surefire way to let someone know you were not only paying attention, but that you’re interested.
Before I run off to another meeting, I’ll share with you one of my personal secret weapons: the head nod and furrowed brow combo. When my eyebrows move closer together and I nod my head as in “yes, I get what you’re saying,” without fail, the person who is speaking stops talking to everyone else in the room and directs his/her words towards me. If you need a big dog, power player to notice you, if even for a moment, then give that one-two punch a try.
Love. Oh Love, how could you be so blind?
When we’re head over heels for someone we make some of our most questionable decisions. It looks like our fashion choices may suffer right along with the rest of them, like this guy’s cute red crossbody chain purse. We know (hope) it’s his girlfriend’s, but come on, it matches his shirt perfectly and everything.
I suppose we’ve probably all been there at some point in our young, foolish lives, but hopefully nobody has a picture of it!