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Principles In Action #1 : Treat Others Like They Have Value

by The Happy Rock on August 8, 2007

This is the first in a recurring series of posts called “Principles in Action”. The idea is to show positive life principles at work in my life and in the lives of others. The story will illuminate a practical application of a positive life principle and the effect of that principle in action. I welcome any readers to email me(use the contact page) with principle in action stories. If the reader wants and it ties into the theme of The Happy Rock, I will post it to the community so we all can learn and grow.

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Treat Others Like They Have Value

Last Monday I was at the check out line of our local Wegman’s grocery store. When the 19 year old check girl asked the normal ‘How are you?’, I decided to actually answer the question rather than mumble something non committal and go about my business. Being the introvert that I am, I often rush through the check out line focused on my life and trying to avoid eye contact as much as possible.

This particular day I shared how my wife and I were packing to leave for a family camping trip to upstate Pennsylvania. As a side note, I often mention my wife and family quickly in the conversation; mostly because I love them and like to talk about them, but also to relieve the male-female tension that can often arise. I think it helped this young girl feel more comfortable, and she opened up about how she had recently returned from vacation with her family in Virginia. We both seemed to enjoy our little conversation, and checking out went by quickly. I, of course, paid cash.

I left feeling positive, and I hope she left feeling valued as a person and as a check out clerk. I didn’t really think anything of it, until I was almost out of the door and the cashier came running after me. I had forgotten a paid for $5 bag of organic grapes. I thanked her, and she ran back to the check out counter.

My question is this: had I not treated her with value, does she run after me? Maybe, maybe not, though I wouldn’t have been surprised if she would have waited for me to come back. I wouldn’t have remembered until I got home and would have lost the $5 for the grapes. What do you think?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve August 9, 2007 at 10:00 am

It’s a very interesting question. I’m not certain either that she would have run after you if you hadn’t made her feel valued. At least I am sure that there is a greater chance that she wouldn’t have run after you. By making her feel valued as a person you made a connection, however small, so she felt like she had to take care of you (does that make sense). I’ve found that making small talk like that can open all kinds of doors – faster restaurant seating, upgrades at hotels and even on airlines, freebies at bars, etc.

Everyone wants to feel valued, loved and needed so it is a very humane thing to do. And maybe it makes the world a better place.

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Chief Family Officer August 9, 2007 at 10:38 pm

As I’ve gotten older, I have come to believe that kindness not only has value in and of itself, but it will also attract good things to me. Like you, I try to make an effort to be friendly to strangers, though it is not my natural inclination. I haven’t been rewarded with grapes though 😉

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The Happy Rock August 9, 2007 at 11:19 pm

@steve – I hope it does make the world a better place. That is something that really motivates me.

@CFO – To gain the grapes, first you must forget the grapes! In reality though you are being rewarded in many other ways, and so are the people who come across your path.

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Thecpa August 10, 2007 at 6:46 pm

Happy Rock,
This is an excellent post. Words we should all live by with action.

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Nantahala August 13, 2007 at 4:06 pm

Thank you for this post, it illustrates to me the need for integrity in all of affairs, even the small ones that may seem trivial at the time.

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Gordana August 14, 2007 at 3:24 am

“Like” they have value? Are we to conclude that you think people on the check out don’t have value?
Kindness is an investment which pays endless dividends. Like all investments sometimes it turns out to be waste of time. But unlike “hard core” investments – you invest it in people and they (almost) always respond to kindness.

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The Happy Rock August 14, 2007 at 9:17 am

@Thecpa and Nantahala – Thanks. Integrity is vitally important. And as you both mentioned it is important to carry these affirming beliefs to even the mundane and trivial parts of our life.

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The Happy Rock August 14, 2007 at 9:36 am

@Gordana – As I wrote this piece I had a feeling that this type of comment might come in. I agree with you that the word “like” doesn’t clearly express the goal that we all should be striving for. Even at this time I am still searching for the right language to relay the idea clearly. The goal is to value others. To do that we need to manifest that value with actions.

With that said, sometimes I don’t treat people like they have value. I’ll will be the first to admit it. That is not the person I want to be though.

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Rob O. August 14, 2007 at 9:28 pm

This is an especially important lesson if you’re a small business owner or employee. For example, my wife & I take our dry cleaning to a nearby shop that we’re fiercely loyal to. This shop is not the most competitive on pricing and while they do exactly the kind of job we expect with our items to be laundered, that’s not why we give them our business time and again. No, we remain loyal to that dry cleaning shop because the staff makes us feel welcome – by remembering our names and taking an interest in us. It may be mindless smalltalk, but it makes me feel like less of a customer and more like a valued friend.

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The Happy Rock August 15, 2007 at 11:24 am

Rob – Thanks for the perspective. Like you said, you don’t notice most of the companies that don’t make you feel valued, but you certainly will notice the few that do.

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matthew burnham August 15, 2007 at 6:07 pm

this is all well and good, but it should be mentioned that not all service workers are operating on this theory, and may not recognise the value in the customer apart from the fraction of a minute they add to their weekly paycheck. I try to communicate with people who are working only if it won’t take away from their bottom line. Case in point…. the waitress with five other tables does not want to hear about your weekend, she would rather have you eat, leave, and tip, rinse and repeat. You making small talk takes away from the tips she won’t pay her taxes on.

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Rob O. August 15, 2007 at 8:07 pm

…the waitress with five other tables does not want to hear about your weekend, she would rather have you eat, leave, and tip, rinse and repeat. You making small talk takes away from the tips she won’t pay her taxes on.

Respectfully, I disagree, Matt. That she took the time to make smalltalk and take some interest is likely to net that waitress a substantially better tip from me. It may not equate to more money every time, but there is a payoff for going the extra mile to make a customer feel valued.

And to a certain degree, the payoff can also come in the form of improved job satisfaction – if I know I’ve done not just a good job today, but actually made people feel good in the process, I’ll probably have a much better outlook when thinking back on those hours spent at work. And it may make tomorrow’s work day something I can look forward to instead of dread.

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The Happy Rock August 16, 2007 at 10:09 am

@matthew burnham – I think your point is well taken that part of respecting someone means taking into account their situation and goals. If I try to force an action on someone, I most likely more interested in how it makes me feel than providing something positive for the other person. The latter is the goal, whatever form it may need to take.

@Rob – I like the point that a wait staff probably can use being friendly to affect their job satisfaction. As you mentioned the wait staff will benefit from treating the customer with respect, hopefully both financially and emotionally.

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Nancy Baer January 27, 2009 at 9:17 am

I’m happy to have stumbled upon this site, and will certainly be back. We are all together on this planet,
we are all one. We are all equal. If we treat one another
with the love, respect, and compassion that is our TRUE
legacy on this earth..we wouldn’t have a need for blogs
promoting the same. These things are inside..and reinforced if we are very, very blessed..by our parents.
Wishing all of you a wonder~filled dayO:)

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The Happy Rock January 27, 2009 at 2:10 pm

@Nancy – Thanks for the kind comments. It isn’t an easy lesson to learn or teach, but all need to learn that it isn’t about us.

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