Friendliness can change the world

I’m not sure this has much to do with business, at least not specifically, but it’s been on my mind lately, so I’m writing about it.

There is an elderly gentleman at the church I attend to who is one of the friendliest people I know. Every week he stops and gives me a firm, enthusiastic handshake, usually accompanied by a grip on my shoulder or other arm, looks me in the eye, and says something along the lines of “Hello, Thom! How are you doing?”

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this regular encounter is that I never for a second doubt his sincerity. It’s not just a rote meeting–for those ten seconds I completely believe he is happy to see me and genuinely interested in how I’m doing. I can’t detect a single clue in his body language that I am not the most important person on his mind at that moment.

This last Sunday he was walking past as if he was intent on getting somewhere else (and indeed he probably was, as we were both on the raised area near the pulpit in plain view of the entire congregation–a place most people are eager to avoid). Suddenly he stopped and made a beeline over to me to shake my hand as usual. As he walked away afterward I thought to myself “This man is a rockstar–except by so saying I’ve just elevated rockstars to a status most don’t deserve.”

I admire people like him. I intend to watch him more carefully and see how he does it. The world has far too few people like him who, can with a ten-second encounter, completely lift another person and make them feel better about themselves. It’s a talent, and possibly a gift, but one I hope to be able to cultivate someday.

Do you know someone like this? Have you made a successful attempt to emulate them? Have any advice to pass along? Leave a comment below?