Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
- Leo Buscaglia

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Traveling More Personally

     For me, traveling is usually a pretty impersonal experience.  By this I mean that I'm usually pretty wrapped up in my own cocoon, existing amidst lots of other people, but mostly in my own world.  Sure there are interactions with parking shuttle bus drivers, TSA agents, flight attendants, and other passengers, but the interactions are at a perfunctory level at best.  Today I decided to try to make it a different (and kinder) experience.
     There were two parts to what I did differently today.  The first was something I've mentioned before - paying particular attention to using people's names.  In the travel world, unlike it many other areas, it seems that most people do wear a name tag.  It doesn't take much effort to notice their name, look them in the eye, and converse with them by name - even if it's simply to say thank you.  I find that it makes the interaction much more human, rather than simply transactional.  If the name is unusual, I'll ask the person how to pronounce it and where it comes from.  I find that they usually seem to appreciate someone taking an interest in them.  I had dinner in a hotel restaurant tonight and when the waitress didn't introduce herself (most seem to do so), I asked her her name and also told her mine.  I was then sure to use her name each time I addressed her.
     The second thing I did differently today was to engage in conversation with the passenger sitting next to me on the plane.  This may not seem like a big deal, but I'm usually pretty reserved and don't typically initiate the conversation.  It turns out that the guy I was sitting next to was a fascinating man (a pathologist involved in various forms of drug testing) and we talked nearly the whole way.  I think he's even going to order my book!  Anyway, it made it a much more interesting trip and a lot less lonely.
     I'm not quite sure why it is the most of us (and certainly me) tend to avoid making personal connections with people we don't already know.  It's as if we put a force field or a protective membrane around ourselves.  But what are we protecting ourselves against?  I'm trying to be more conscious of keeping the defenses down and looking to create more connection.

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