“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”
It’s fascinating how powerful we humans are. We often forget how a small gesture can change the trajectory of someone’s day; it’s truly phenomenal. This phenomenon happened to me last Sunday while I was at work. As you may know from my Facebook posts, I’m in grad school now and just got a new job at a fine dining restaurant here in Boston. The restaurant is great, but the work is challenging. Before each shift, I have to mentally prepare myself for what is to come because work is tedious. Last Sunday was no different, but this time, I struggled. I was doing the best I could, but I was not as competent in the restaurant policies as I should have been. Because I struggled, I was hard on myself. I began thinking,
“I should have studied more.”
“I have to focus better.”
“I have to work harder.”
All of the negative energy I was feeling took over and I was ready to go home. After a couple of hours into my shift, we got busy, and I had to amp up my efforts on top of my depression. I didn’t have time to wade in self-pity or cry; I had to focus and get my job done. Following a series of restaurant duties, I went back to the kitchen to polish silverware. As I stood there, mentally checked out and numb, one of the kitchen workers came next to me and washed his hands. I’m sure he could see the apparent sad look on my face and how “over it” I was. After he washed his hands, he looked at me and said,
“What’s your name?” with a genuine smile.
“Chris,” I replied.
“Chris, that’s my son’s name. Very nice to meet you keep up the good work.”
Following that very brief interaction I felt a weight was lifted. The cook’s simple gesture of simply acknowledging me and affirming my work changed the trajectory of my day.
The rest of my day went better than it started and I accredit it to that simple interaction with the cook. I’m sure that cook, had no idea how much his small acknowledgment meant but it meant a lot. I believe we all possess the Superpower to change someone’s day with a simple acknowledgment and smile. Unfortunately, many of us get so caught up in our many tasks we forget this impressive power. As you read this blog, I encourage you to acknowledge this superpower that you innately posses and get to using it soon. I can say with confidence that with everything going on in the world this work is needed. Here are three reasons why authentic acknowledgment is crucial work.
Energy Is Transferable
The law of conservation of energy is a law of science that states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only changed from one form into another or transferred from one object to another. Under our bodies, at our simplest forms lies energy that has taken its form through cells. Every one of us carries energy inside us everywhere we go. Our emotions are how we express the energy inside of us. The Latin derivative for the word emotion, ‘emotere,’ literally means energy in motion. We are responsible for the energy we bring into any space. Every moment we are given a choice to decide what energy we are going to carry around. We can choose anger, joy, sadness or love. It’s up to us.
When I was polishing silverware, I decided to entertain thoughts of inadequacy, sadness, and guilt. That choice invited that energy in and flowed. When the cook spoke to me, he was kind, concerned and positive. After our interaction, I choose to be positive and allow that energy to flow through the rest of my shift. By us using our Superpower of acknowledging one another, we can transfer positive energy to our neighbors who may very well need it.
We Never Know What Our Neighbors Are Going Through
We all are busy with our never-ending lists of tasks and to-dos. I know sometimes I can get so overwhelmed and focus on myself that I never take time to acknowledge those around me and check in, this is problematic. When we all take time to check-in and acknowledge one another, the effects are limitless. The cook had no idea that I was feeling down or hard on myself but through his small acknowledgment, I became more positive allowing me to have a better day.
It Builds Connection
In her impressive Ted Talks, Dr. Brene Brown talks about the inextricable human connection that every human naturally longs for and desires. She continually states in her research that we as humans are “wired for connection.” One way to build that connection is through acknowledging one another.
I’ll never forget the first conversation I had with my now best friend, Corbin. He performed in a stroll-off at Morehouse, and I saw him do an impressive backflip during the performance. Corbin and I had class together that semester but never spoke. I remember vividly deciding I was going to acknowledge his performance in our next class to let him know he killed it.
That next morning as our Spanish class was ending, I walked up to him for the first time and said,
“Hey man you did a great job in the stroll off, that backflip was lit.”
I acknowledged his efforts in the performance. Corbin then expressed how nervous he was and how appreciative he was of my compliment. In that small interaction, a connection was established, and that was the start of our now, legendary friendship.
Acknowledgement builds connection.
You might ask yourself, what does authentic acknowledgement look like? How can I start using my superpower? Glad you asked.
Acknowledgement is smiling and saying good morning to those you pass throughout your day. Acknowledgement is that small “How was your weekend?” you ask individuals on a Monday morning. Acknowledgement is the, “how was your day?” To the roommate you pretend isn’t there. Acknowledgement is asking your professor how are they are doing at the start of class, instead of them asking you.
Acknowledgement is not a means to probe and be nosy. It is not something forced or unnatural. Acknowledgment is genuine, authentic and worth the investment.
In these trying times of mass shootings, negative media and everyday trials, we can all use a little more light in our days. I hope that after reading this piece, you plan on using your superpower of authentic acknowledgment and spreading a little light throughout your day.