Imagine this: You enter the bathroom at work and you notice acleaning person wiping down the sink. Their back is turned to you.
What would you do next?
A) Quietly go about your business.
B) Say “hello.”
C) Thank them for cleaning the bathroom.
D) Any of the above, depending on your mood or the exact circumstances.
Examining your answer
As you put yourself in the situation, think about what you might feel and what you imagine the other person might feel. Although it’s a commonplace, even trivial, interaction, it can bring up some powerful emotions.
My own answer is “Any of the above,” and my feelings vary significantly depending upon what I do. If I ignore the person, I feel a twinge of shame that I’m not acknowledging someone who is cleaning a bathroom I use. If I greet them, that feeling goes away and turns into something positive, especially if they warmly return the greeting as is usually the case.
The best feelings are when I thank them for their work. The person usually responds with mild surprise at my comment, and smiles brightly as they say “you’re welcome” and we wish each other a good day. It’s a small thing, and yet the exchange of authentic good will sparks a bit of joy.
What does this have to do with working out loud?
Working out loud is a practice. It’s through small steps you take, practiced over time, with feedback and (ideally) peer support, that you gradually build a capability and a mindset of deepening relationships through generosity.
Some of the most powerful gifts you have to offer - contributions that are universally valued - are recognition and appreciation. The point of this post is that even mundane interactions are opportunities to practice offering these gifts. Not just with someone doing the cleaning, but with the person delivering the mail or making your coffee, the administrative assistant or the security guard. Not just via social media or email, but every day throughout the day. It's like the Generosity Test I posted a few weeks ago. Each time you do it you gain subtle insights into your motivations and reactions.
Today, as you meet someone you might normally pass by, say “hello” and “thank you.” Be mindful of how that makes you feel. Watch how it makes the other person feel.
The more you practice, the more comfortable you become offering small gifts in a variety of circumstances till, over time, it becomes a habit that makes you happier and more effective.