Interacting with the public can be challenging. Working in a career that is focused on customer service exposes us to the best and the worst of human behavior. Someone close to me, a professional in a public-facing office environment, was recently training a new member of the staff. She told me that her advice to the new recruit included, "If you invest in the people you see every day, they will make your life better." True!
How do we invest? It's simple, really: Ask them about their lives, and remember to ask again when they return.
Chris Widener, a personal development and leadership expert, tells the story of his daughter's job at Starbucks. Working as a Barista, the amount of money she earned in tips dramatically increased when she started investing in her customers. She reported that, at first, customers would tip only the coins they were getting back as change. After she started investing in them by asking about their day, remembering details of their lives and asking about them, and so on, customers started leaving the paper money portion of their change as tips. Widener equates this behavior to our innate desire for connection.
Neither Widener nor I endorse what I call "mercenary investment", where we engage simply for the transaction, only to get more money. The sentiment expressed in the title of this post includes the words, "they will make your life better." This means to invest because people are worthwhile, because through relationships we all are made better. Engage because you life and the lives of the folks around you will be richer, fuller, more meaningful when you invest.