You enter your hotel fresh off the plane and the first thing you come to is the front desk attendant. As he helps another guest, he seems very friendly and accommodating. Reviews all of the information about the amenities, talks about which room they are staying in and how to get there and answers any questions that they have. Then the guest starts asking more questions about where to eat in the area and places to go. You start looking at your watch and timing the interaction. Time continues and you feel like you've been standing there for close to 20 minutes. You're thinking about the hunger that you have after sleeping through the plane trip and not waking up for the meal, putting your things away and going for a drink, maybe taking a shower or even heading to bed. Your feet are aching, your perspiring and haven't had a shower in a day...do you get the idea? The front desk attendant finally finishes with the hotel guest in front of you and now says he can help you. How do you react?
I’ve seen scenarios like this many times over my travels and interactions with people. Some people decide to get belligerent with the person. Some will be calm, keep the interaction brief and keep their feelings inside. How would I interact? I take advantage of the opportunity. I speak with kindness…and you know what? It goes a long way in life.
Seize the moment and make someone feel good. You never know what is going on in someone else’s mind or what they have gone through previously in the day. If I can take mere minutes and have a conversation with someone and put them at ease, I’ve done right with myself. Surprisingly when you have this mindset, more than likely it pays off for you in the long run. I’ve had many of these conversations, where I try to make light of a situation and what happens in the end? I’ve received free bottles of wine at hotels, free drinks at restaurants, upgrades, and more. Even better, I’ve had belly laughs with the person (that no material thing could ever take place of) and made lifelong friends from just brief interactions. I’m not saying be nice and expect something, I’m saying be nice because it’s the right thing to do.
It’s not even on trips, it could be as simple as talking to your neighbor and starting your day off right. I have a neighbor that I ride the elevator with every morning. We talk briefly and he goes his way, I go mine. I have to be honest, when we miss each other on a day, I feel like I missed something in my morning routine. It feels good to socially interact with people, that’s the fun of life.
I remember as a kid, my father and I would take trips downtown in our small village in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I would ride shotgun with him as we made our way around town. I watched him interact with people. I never have forgotten those trips downtown. I watched as he spoke to people genuinely. He wanted to know how they were doing and what was going on their lives. It meant a lot to him and it meant a lot to them. As a child, I got frustrated as all children do as parents have a conversation. His conversations with most people would go closer to a half hour minimum. I realized as I got older, what those social interactions meant. I took away more than I thought I did from that time and I like to think I inherited this. Do you know the “Watching you” song by Rodney Atkins? If you don’t, listen to it, there is a true meaning behind that song.
I take this mentality with me wherever I go and when you’re real with people, they are real with you. On our last trip to Kona, I had a great conversation with one of the coffee attendants at Hula Coffee company. We spoke about light roast vs the dark roast coffee and the type that Kona is known for. You know what happened? She pulled out a bag of a light roast coffee (that they sell for a ridiculous price to people) and made us a special pour over. In Amsterdam we started chatting with a fantastic bartender that we met at Cafe Gollem. We had a long conversation on beer and life and honestly paid less than we should have for the beer that we drank that evening. Be you, and be genuinely interested in another human being.
The difference you can make in someones life is extremely important. Human beings are social creatures and there have been many studies on happiness and the conversations you have with other people. They have shown when we have positive interactions at longer periods of time with people, we begin to trust them as they do us and it follows along with our overall happiness. This feeling continues far after those interactions you have. It can be as simple as the difference in having a quick but genuine conversation with your waiter at a restaurant, instead of just ordering and moving on to your next topic of conversation with your partner at the table. Take the time to get to know people. Your happiness will increase and you will be surprised at what comes from the conversation.
Now go back to the situation we spoke about at the beginning. Will you view this interaction differently? Will you get to know the person in front of you, or will you simply be frustrated, get your room key and move on with life? I know what I will do, but the choice is yours.