Chance encounters…

by DanB

It was a coincidence. I stopped for lunch at McDonald’s a few days ago. While I was standing in line a gentleman asked about the pen in my pocket. It turns out that he is a pen collector. One of my interests is pens – fountain pens specifically. His name is Jim. We sat down and enjoyed an interesting discussion about pens, watches, sales, communication, and chance meetings over lunch. Both of us were off our normal path. It was a chance meeting in an out of the way location.

Why bring this up? What chance meeting will you have today? Tomorrow? What will it lead to? You never know. My wife and I frequently meet people in the most unlikely places that share similar interests. I don’t think there is anything special we are doing other than showing an interest in the people we meet.

One of the things Jim and I discussed was how even common courtesies are missing in our daily lives. He and I had both spoken to the order takers with a friendly hello and a friendly goodbye. We watched the other people go through the line and didn’t see anybody else do the same. Why is that? It took no more time and just added a personal element to an otherwise routine interaction.

One of my mentors emphasized the distinction between frustration and fascination. He would speak about being in a traffic jam. You can be frustrated with the situation, or you can be fascinated with the various things going on around you.

So what does any of this have to do with productivity? Everything. Since your overall attitude affects everything you do it is important to keep a pleasant approach. Many times your productivity depends on the actions of another person. A little personal interaction can go a long way to helping everyone’s tasks go a bit smoother.

How interesting will your next interaction be? Do you have an interesting chance meeting to share? Go ahead and share it below. Who knows the information in your post may become a chance encounter for a random web surfer.

Have a productive day!
~ Dan

  • Mary D.

    Just to add to your common courtesy discussion, especially with folks that are waiting on you somewhere. There’s something I’ve found that will always get a smile and perhaps someone more willing to help you. Try this and I’m betting you’ll see a difference too… if the person is wearing a nametag, I always try to say their name in the discussion, such as “Thank you Dan”, after my order is taken. Or “You have a nice day, Dan”. That type of personalization goes a long way in making the person helping you out feel like you recognize them as a person, rather than like someone just there to wait on you.

    You may get a few strange looks from those you call by name at first, because they just aren’t used to being recognized like that. But it may be the difference in getting better service, that and being cordial helps too.

    We’ve already gotten a free upgrade to the next level of rental car that included Satellite Radio and Navigational GPS, free of charge and we didn’t know we’d gotten it until we got to where the car was parked. The only thing we did was talk cordially with the desk clerk waiting on us, called him by name, smiled, laughed, joked a bit and voila, we were in the bonus, free of charge. It pays to utilize common courtesy and it also comes back to you a hundredfold then too.

  • Peg

    Hi Dan,

    I love little encounters like this and seem to have more than my share of them — perhaps because, like you and Jim, I tend to talk to people more than others do.

    I take the train to work every day and usually knit while listening to a book on my MP3 player. My knitting has lead to the most interesting conversations with all sorts of folks…

    Older Black men reminisce about beloved wives or mothers — now gone — who used to knit for them. Teenage boys too ‘cool’ to show how really fascinated they are, but who are drawn into conversation regardless. Young girls who look wistfully at a lacy scarf and wish they could make something like it.

    My favorite remains the charming Asian woman who often gets on the afternoon train: she delights in seeing the pattern of the day, touching the yarn, and exclaiming over the garment in progress. We share no language but the love of knitting and have a delightful visit every time.

    I believe strongly in a “what goes around, comes around” philosophy. If I send a smile or a kind gesture out to the people around me (family, strangers, co-workers, whatever), I know that it will touch many and reverberate back to me a hundred-fold — often when I need it most.

    Thanks, Dan, for reminding me of that.

    And thanks, too, for your newsletter over the years. I’ve really enjoyed and benefited from it.


  • Ed

    I too have been accused of being over friendly, since whoever I meet I treat like an old friend.
    But our favorite encounter has been the recent week we spent in Honolulu….those folks take friendliness to a higher level…almost embarrassing the wonderful way they treated us.Everyone, whether they are Hawaiian or just vacationers, we met seem to be in some sort of happiness trance (and maybe rightly so…being in PARADISE!) I HIGHLY recommend a visit to anyone who needs an appreciation-recharge in humanity!!!!

  • Patrick

    I can speak to the opposite side. Having worked in retail, I was trained to say “Thank you for shopping with us” or something to that effect. When I became an Asst. Manager, I trained my people to do it.

    Weeks & months go by now without a clerk bothering to say “Hello,” let alone a “Thanks for shopping.” How hard is it to say thank you? The ending comments I usually get are “there you go,” “have a nice day” or something equally non-committal. What I would really like to hear is a simple “Thank You!”

  • Del Cain

    I too have these little encounters, some more memorable than others. The one I would mention here is when visiting two different Half-Price Bookstores within about a week I ran into a couple of my acquaintance along with their many children (or many of their children, I guess) in both of them. You know who you are.

  • Stan Peters

    On chance encounters. You mentioned taking time to say hello etc. What I also find people really appreciate in my city, as traffic is quite congested at times, is letting a hole open in traffic so they can pull in from a parking lot etc into traffic. If everyone did that, there wouldn’t be long lineups. You usually get a big smile when you do that.

  • Ann Pearl

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you for the excellent post about chance encounters and being pleasant to others.

    Being friendly and pleasant really does make a difference to everyone.

    When I started working in a very stressful computer department, one of my colleagues always took the time to say “Thank you”. On the occasional bad days when everything seemed to go wrong, her kindness made a big difference in our group. It helped cheer us up and calm us down.

    It’s a little thing that makes a big difference. :-)

  • Bill

    Hi Dan. It would appear that the previous comments have come from people that are aged 40 or more. Maybe this is how our parents taught us to respond. I am one on the “elderly” people referred to. The “kids” now in the retail business, it would appear, have never been taught these common protocols by their parents or employers. “Old Fashoined Common Courtesy” goes a long way, even in these days of I-Phones. Even a “Please and/or a Thank-you” would go a long way.

  • Maria

    I love visiting with people when I am waiting in line; but, as you say allot of them aren’t too freindly.
    But, as far as saying thank, please, etc. to clerks whether fast food or at a store I try to always say “have a great day”….sometimes they are nice and sometimes they really don’t care. But, in saying it I hope that I might brighten their day.

    Maria Rouse

  • Catmoves

    I have long made it a practice, whether on a phone or speaking face to face with humans, to speak to them cordially, joke with them, get them laughing and make friends for a moment in time. Often, a cordial friendship will follow. Even more often they are willing to use their training and help me out with a problem.

    So I guess it may be considered self interest that makes me behave that way? But the people seem to like it.

  • Jim

    Hi Dan; I agree that common courtesies and pleasantries are very important in day to day life. Being courteous with salespeople, letting others in and out of traffic are just two examples. Being retired, I don’t have the same “time pressures” as I did when working, but what a difference a 2 or 10 second gesture can make. My motto in life is make every day count and make a difference. Even the smallest gesture of goodwill can make a big difference…to someone.

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