One of the most straightforward ways to show people that they really matter is to maintain contact with them when they’ve had a hard time, are going through a rough patch, or have suffered a setback. You don’t need to do anything particular; you just need to be in touch.
Say someone you know — a longstanding customer, a colleague, or even a pleasant acquaintance from the neighborhood or your daily commute — is going through some difficulties. Instead of turning away because you don’t really know what to do, and privately hoping that they’ll right themselves, what would be the worst thing that might happen if you actually checked back in with them?
It’s possible that you could be perceived as intrusive or a busy-body. And it’s possible that you could feel awkward or uncomfortable. But it’s worth the risk! There can be untold value in letting someone know that they’re not alone and that other people really do care — whether you know them well or not so much, professionally or personally.
Here’s an actual exchange of emails (edited minimally for confidentiality) between me and someone who was recently going through a truly difficult time at work:
Hey, Xerxes —
I just wanted to see how you’re doing. Figured it was long enough after seeing you that the worst of the “busy coping” part would be over.
Wasn’t kidding about “happening to pass by on purpose” at just the right moment to hear about your day — I believe that’s often how the universe works. If you want to talk more, will you let me know?
Hi Liz, thanks for checking on me!! Last week was tough, but in the grand scheme we came out ok!! Your thoughts mean a lot to me!! See you at the next meeting.
Sure, checking in might take a little time out of your day. But if you check in with just one individual each week you could be giving support to 52 people in a year. Think about that over your numerous customers, employees, volunteers, or organization members. Or increase your own contacts to a couple each week, or even one a day. In no time, you’ll have gotten in touch with up to hundreds of people, all of whom you’ll have helped experience a sense of shared humanity and concern.
Talk about paying it forward into a kind of safety networking!
Who could you connect with today, for their sake, for your organization’s sake, and for your own?
Onward and upward,