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Caring About What Matters to Others

Too often, too many of us go about our daily business thinking only about what matters to us as individuals.  In doing so, we are doing a disservice not just to those around us, but also to ourselves.  In various interactions large and small throughout an average day, we can choose to essentially be selfish, or we can choose to take the needs of others into account before acting or speaking.  When we choose the latter, everyone wins.

A co-worker recently came to me for help in reviewing an email response to a client before sending.  I explained to her how there was nothing wrong with what was drafted, then offered up an alternative draft rooted in not just serving our needs, but also the specific needs of the client. I explained what I thought the client may be looking for, and how differently worded responses (even though they may technically offer the same exact information) may “land” on them in more positive or negative ways.  We made a choice to take the extra time to ponder what really mattered to the client, and it worked.  And there may have been something that mattered to her in the moment, that was well-served by my explaining the process along the way.  We all won. 

My 8yo and 11yo children ask for me to lay with them every night as they go to sleep.  (I now have to settle for a hug and heartfelt “I love you” from my 13yo…)  Literally every night.  By that time I’m usually quite tired, often have more work to do, am looking forward to some time with my wife, and have plenty more reasons to say no.  And sometimes I do.  But many times in those moments I remind myself what matters to them.  How important is that 5 or 10 min to them.  What does it mean to them.  How does it make them feel.  Anytime I think in those terms, I wind up laying down.  It matters to them, and beyond that, it really means everything to them in that moment.  I’ve yet to regret that decision. 🙂

Tom Mendoza (of NetApp and Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business fame) is one of the best public speakers I’ve ever known.  Few people can command an audience and tell a story like he can even if they’ve already heard it!! 🙂 I asked him what his secret was and while he had several recommendations, the main thing was understanding how he wanted the audience to feel throughout and at the end of his talk.  How many speakers totally miss that?  How many of us have told a story or given a talk with only our agenda or goals in mind, what matters to us.  And how many of those have missed the mark?  When communicating, understanding what matters to others, how you want them to feel, will make you more effective and make the interaction much more fulfilling for both parties. 

Serving our own needs comes naturally, so I don’t worry about a risk of losing that.  We are fairly hard-wired as humans to take care of and preserve our own well-being.  When we get into the habit of assessing the needs of others before acting, it can become effortless, second nature.  And if there was ever a time for this mindset to be present and active on a macro scale, I’m sure most of us can agree it’s now…

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