Getting the Little Things Right
An Early Lesson
One of the first lessons I remember learning from my dad was the importance of a firm handshake. He’s always believed men and women alike reveal a lot about themselves in the way they shake hands. For example, someone with a limp handshake probably has an equally weak personality, while one who vigorously grabs your hand and pumps it like a lever is prone to dishonesty (these are my dad’s words). He prefers the firm but not overly-aggressive approach, which he says demonstrates strong character.
I don’t know how he arrived at these conclusions, but I’ve found them to be surprisingly accurate over the years. I’ve also added to his initial findings and have decided those who don’t shake hands at all are the worst; it’s just bad form. When I explained this to my dad, he smiled and agreed. I knew I had earned a gold star in his book for that particular observation.
The Little Things
A person’s handshake is part of a collection of “little things” that really do matter in life. Also included in this category is eye contact, which seems to occur less and less frequently in today’s world. I remember learning in various communications and business etiquette courses that eye contact is crucial to conveying the fact that you’re listening. But eye contact does more than this. It literally forms a bond, however briefly, between the two people who are engaged. If eyes are the windows to the soul, eye contact provides the means with which to look through them. Without it, you’re left to stare at the floor, the walls, or the table, none of which is very interesting (or humanized!).
When I’m talking, and the person I’m talking to doesn’t look at me, I’m pretty confident he or she is thinking about something else altogether. That feeling generally causes me to stop speaking mid-sentence. After all, what is the point in trying to communicate with someone who has no idea you’re even speaking?
Smiles are also included in the group of “little things that matter”. I’ve discovered that having someone smile back at you can literally lift your heart. They can affirm that you’ve found your place in the world, that you belong.
On the other hand, when you give someone a smile and he or she ignores it, the effect can be devastating. I can’t count the number of times this has happened to me, and I always end up feeling like something is wrong with me. This is a terrible reaction to having done nothing more than smiled at another person. With this in mind, I’ve concluded that maybe nothing is wrong with me, but instead with the world. We all need to smile more, if for no reason other than that it makes us feel good.
The last little thing that deserves mentioning is putting away the mobile devices while spending time with others. It upsets me more than I can say to see someone I’m talking to pull out a mobile device and begin checking texts, emails and Facebook statuses while we’re supposed to be in the middle of a conversation. To take it one step further, I feel like society at large has an attention span of about 30 seconds. Not only does this mean we’re not interested in what people are saying to us, but that we’re also no longer connecting to each other on a meaningful level.
I’ll wrap this up by saying that we need to ensure that the little things – firm handshakes, eye contact, smiles, and devoted attention – are part of everyday life. They may seem minute, but they mean so much. Without them, we’re no longer part of a grand, human tapestry… we’re just unconnected dots.