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Are you an “adder” or a “subtractor”?

As a teenager I worked as a cashier in the convenience store my mom managed. In any given shift, we would wait on 150+ customers. As I went about my mundane tasks for the day, I had an awakening of sorts. I realized that everyday I met people that I would never see again. Many of the people who shopped were not regular customers. At the time I thought, “how can I impact these people’s lives even though I’m only encountering them for a few moments in their entire lifetime?”

More recently, I’ve begun to reflect on how to apply this line of thinking to work, family and life. Each day as I interact with people I know (co-workers, family, friends) and those I’m meeting for the first and perhaps the only time at Wal-Mart or the local greasy fast food joint, I have a choice. Do I want to add to this person’s day or do I want to subtract? Of course it’s not a concious thought like that all the time and unfortunately, I’m not as consistent on “adding” to people as I would like. For example:

I recall one interaction with a lady at the YMCA back in the summer that I wish I could take back. My wife and family were visiting a new Y location and we weren’t familiar with their childcare hours. As I dropped off my children, I discovered child care ended in one hour. I was a bit short tempered that day and while I didn’t verbally assault the Y worker, I did express my disgust with the system. As the words came out of my mouth, I saw the expression on the workers face change from a pleasant, good day experience to…please go away now. I later bumped into her an hour later as I picked up my child. While my demeanor was much better, the damage had already been done and my reputation tarnished.

Since then, I’ve tried to be much more aware and intentional about being an “adder” to make people’s day better every time I see them. Now if I can just transfer that into my drive time. 🙂

Good questions/comments to use with others throughout the day

  1. Do you need anything? Can I do anything for you? (when you see someone having a rough day)

  2. How’s your day? Are you having a good day? (Smile, then listen. Store cashiers love this if they have time.)

  3. Pay someone a compliment (That’s a nice outfit. Your hair looks nice today.)

  4. Can I rub your feet? (works well on the wife and kids)

Hopefully, if I focus on this for a while I’ll be able to form a habit and become an “adder” unconciously. My wife would like that. 😉

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