Monday, October 22, 2012
Making That Connection
I was back on the road again today - this time to Atlanta. I feel like I've been in airports almost every day lately. The thing I've noticed most about traveling is the way in which, by necessity, large numbers of people need to be moved as efficiently as possible. From what I hear from those who travel abroad, I get the sense that we do it as efficiently as anywhere here in the US. One of the casualties of that efficiency, however, is that we can lose much of the personal touch - the human connection. Today I tried to focus on that as much as I could.
The simplest way to do that is to pay attention to, and then use, people's names. Most people, whether they be ticket agents, TSA agents, or even food vendors seem to be wearing a name tag of some sort. It only takes an extra instant to read their name and then to use it in addressing them. They always seem to be surprised (and pleased) when I do so. Another thing I did today was to look for individual things about people about which I could begin a conversation. For example, the TSA agent checking my ID and boarding pass had on an unusual watch. I asked him about it. When I see a person with an unusual name, I ask them about its origin. The driver who picked me up at the airport was from Bulgaria, I learned. This gave me a chance to ask lots about how and why he came here and to show a genuine interest in his life story, not simply treat him as a driver.
It's my supposition that most people crave some kind of individualized attention, even more so than ever before because we live in a society that values transactional efficiency. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is simply to recognize and take a genuine interest in another person as a unique individual.