As you go throughout your day, try to acknowledge situations that other people are dealing with.  I tried this on a recent business trip and it was remarkable what happened.   Here are some examples:

  • I saw a baggage handler loading bags from the jetway in very cold temperatures.  I said “thank you” to him as he took my bag and simply said “It is so cold today, I hope you manage to stay warm.” He looked at me and smiled and said “I’ll try!”  As I boarded, I heard him greet another passenger warmly.
  • At the hotel while checking in, the hotel clerk, who wasn’t particularly friendly at the start, was struggling with his computer.  I leaned in and said “I know those computers are supposed to be our friends, but sometimes I wonder.”  He laughed and agreed.  Suddenly he seemed concerned that I was having to wait on his computer.  He switched to another computer and actually upgraded my room.  Every time I saw him during the trip, he made sure to say hi and we chatted a bit. 
  • A person getting ready to speak at the event I was at seemed a little nervous.  I said, “This is a big room, I know that these kinds of presentations can be nerve racking.”  The speaker released a breath of air and nodded, then talked about how they prepared for the event.  Talking through it, they seemed to be more comfortable and ended up doing a great job. 
  • A waitress serving me at the airport got a little behind as a rush came in.  When she asked me if I needed anything else, I acknowledged, “Boy it got busy there for awhile.” She smiled and sighed, then offered me an extra cup of coffee to go. 

Each of these situations it took very little effort from me.  I didn’t offer solutions or get deep into each situation.  I simply acknowledged that the other person was dealing with their own situations.  When we sense an acknowledgment of this, people feel validated and more important.  It ifs an easy way to engage a person and make them take ownership of what they are doing.  In many of the cases, I saw the person really change their mood and they often improved their performance. Try this experiment and see if you notice a different.  Just acknowledge that other people are working through their own situations.  You will be surprised how much it impacts them and their attitude!