I recently left my full-time corporate job to follow my heart and join the ranks of the self-employed, turning my coaching practice into a full-time venture. During my final weeks in the office, I remembered how important it is to truly connect with other people.
As word got around that I was leaving the company, many coworkers asked about my future plans. What was I going to do? Was I leaving town?
We discussed things like pursuing our dreams, being in jobs where we can make a difference in the world, families, and finding purpose and meaning in life.
As my final weeks went by, people came by my desk or stopped me in the hallway to tell me that they appreciated me, that they enjoyed working with me, and how I positively impacted them when we were working together. I’ve never been good at accepting compliments, but I decided it was time to learn to say “thank you” to their kind words. My coworkers taught me that I made a difference in their lives, and I wanted to acknowledge what they were saying.
On my final day, two people shared some memorable sentiments with me.
One man said, “I’ve always appreciated that when you walk by people in the hallway you smile and say ‘hello.’” I thought to myself, “Of course I try to smile and say hello. Doesn’t everyone?” I guess not.
The second person, someone with whom I worked closely nine years ago, said this: “You know what I’ve always liked about you, Jenny? You ask about things that matter. You would say to me, ‘How’s your family?’ You wanted to know about the important things.” The man who told me that is just about the nicest person I know on this planet. I do not know one person who has ever said a negative thing about him. He is a truly amazing individual. To hear those words from him was very meaningful to me.
The typical employee departure from this company has been marked with a mass email saying “good-bye” to everyone the employee knew during their tenure. For me, sending a mass email felt forced and inauthentic. I wanted to let people know that I valued working with them and that I enjoyed my time with them over the previous ten years. I decided to hand-write personalized notes to the sixty people who most positively impacted me over my previous ten years. I told them how they affected me. Here are some of the things I told them:
- “I appreciated your patience with me when I was new to my job.”
- “You always have such a positive attitude, and you are so great to work with.”
- “I am so grateful for all of the support you gave me when I first moved into management. It was as if you had endless time to listen to my woes and offer me advice.”
- “I had fun working with you when that project was just starting. I learned so much from you.”
- “I am glad that I got to know you over the last several months. Thank you for telling me about your family.”
Why did I wait until I was leaving to thank these people for the great times we had working together? I could have done more of this over the past ten years. I did not necessarily need to give them hand written notes every day, but kind words about why I was grateful to know them could have been shared more regularly.
We all have it in us to live a life where we connect to others. This is something that everyone can do with just a simple conversation about what is important to us in life.
Can you bring more meaningful and authentic connections with others into your everyday life?
Here are a few ideas on creating and enhancing connections. I thank my coworkers for teaching me this.
Over the years, many people have told me that I smile a lot. Honestly, I didn’t think I smiled much! Apparently I smile enough that it was noticed at work. Try it out some time, either at work or at the grocery store. Who cares if the person you’re smiling at doesn’t smile back?!
2. Tell others that you appreciate them and why.
It felt great to have my coworkers say such wonderful things about how I affected them. I returned the sentiments. It was such a feel-good exchange that I plan to do it more!
3. Listen when others talk about what is important in their lives.
I know I can be so quick to think about the next thing that I forget to stop and really listen to other people. When I pay attention and listen, I feel connected to the other person, and the connection feels authentic and meaningful.
4. Share with others what is important to you in your life.
Talk about your family, your pets, your hobbies, and how you spent the weekend. I always feel most connected to people who tell me about their lives. Connecting with others is what makes life worthwhile, and it’s a two-way street. Share yourself with others—they want to know about you. Ask about them in return.
5. Repeat daily.
If I had just smiled one day, or asked one person about their family, I bet I wouldn’t be writing this post. Something prompted me to do these things regularly, and by showing up at work interested in other people, my coworkers took notice.
My challenge is to now take my own advice into the rest of my life. I love to smile at people I know and ask them questions about what matters to them in their lives. Now that I no longer work in a building with eighty other people, it is time for me to start bringing my curiosity about other people with me into the rest of the world, such as the grocery store, the library, and the local coffee shop.
How can you create more meaningful and authentic connections with others in your life?