The most important skill for interacting with people

Very few people are compassionate and considerate. … There are people in your life that haven’t been thanked for all of their efforts in far too long.

“When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble:

… and you will be right more than half the time.”—Henry Eyring

Every person you meet, no matter how happy they appear on the outside, is dealing with serious challenges in their life.

Life is freaking hard.

Some of the people you meet are going through bitter and bone-chilling challenges. And for the most part, you have no clue. You just pass them at work, in the grocery store, or even at family gatherings.

In the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey tells the story of being on a train one day. While on the train, there were two very noisy kids causing a disturbance to everyone around them. Covey noticed that the father was doing nothing about it, and after a period of restraint he approached the father. Here’s Covey’s account of the situation:

“Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly,

“Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. Everything changed in an instant.

Living more compassionately

If you treat every person you meet like they are dealing with a serious challenge, you’ll be right more than half the time. If you entreat people with love, kindness, empathy, and discernment, they will appreciate you so much.

Sharing a few kind words to our loved ones make refreshes them like cool water in the middle of the desert. Small gestures can bring hope and motivation.

Even better, ask people how they are really doing in their life. Tell them that you know they are going through a lot right now, and that it’s probably really tough.

How do you think they’ll respond?

You might just see some tears.

Very few people are compassionate and considerate. For instance, my mom works like an absolute workhorse in her job. She is one of the most caring and loving and hardworking people I know. Yet, day in-and-out, she takes constantly crap from people who don’t appreciate what she does.

It’s crazy how a small and thoughtful compliment can put her in tears. She works so hard.

There are people in your life that haven’t been thanked for all of efforts in far too long.

Conclusion

Harriet Beecher Stowe once said, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”

You have no idea what the people in your world are currently dealing with. If you treat them like they are going through a crises, you’ll be right more often than not. But even more importantly, you can be a balm of peace and understanding for them.

A few words can be a release-valve for pent-up pain and sadness.

You could change someone’s life today. You could potentially save someone’s life today. You could also indirectly change countless other lives through the ripple effects of making just one person felt heard and seen.

Send the text to a friend.

Make that call to a loved one.

Apologize to a co-worker or employee.

Send a loving note of appreciation to your spouse/lover.

Say “I love you” more.

Wrote William Shakespeare, “They do not love that do not show their love.

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This article first appeared on Medium.

Benjamin P. Hardy|is a husband & father of 3