As I was driving to work yesterday morning, I noticed a big FedEx truck trying to merge into my lane on the freeway. As expected, most drivers were barreling ahead, not giving the FedEx driver an inch to work with.
I thought, I’m not in such a huge rush, why not let the guy in? So I slowed down to give him room to merge.
You would have thought I gave that dude a million bucks. He rolled down his window, stuck his whole arm out, and spent four or five seconds waving, giving me a thumbs up, then giving me the peace sign, in that order.
His reaction made me feel great. It totally made my day. I gave myself a nice pat on the back and continued on my commute.
Why did that guy respond so enthusiastically? I think it’s because altruism is so rare when driving. People make so many extraordinarily generous gestures. Think of any philanthropic example you’d like. Millions of people volunteer millions of hours to help all kinds of people, facing all kinds of predicaments.
But while driving? Screw you. I’m in a rush. I left the house a little late. I have to be at work a little early. I don’t have time to make room for people who don’t know what lane they’re supposed to be in. That’s the dominant mentality, I’d guess.
So when one of us displays a little generosity on the road…given expectations…it’s cause for celebration. Or so the FedEx driver thought. And it put me in a great mood.
The lesson cuts two ways:
- Know how much people appreciate unexpected generosity. When you’re in the office, you can delight almost anyone by going ever so slightly out of your way to help them out.
- When someone goes ever so slightly out of their way to help you out, say thanks. The smallest acknowledgement of their good deed can make all the difference in your relationship going forward.
Our office culture is built upon tons of tiny interactions like these. Be the person that tips the scale in favor of generosity and gratitude, rather than selfishness and thanklessness.
Particularly now, when you’re thinking of branching out career-wise, you want to make the best impressions possible. You might be inclined to think of grand, sweeping gestures. Coffee with your boss’s boss. Asking for a raise or promotion. Volunteering to help on the high-profile project.
Those things are fine. But start smaller. And continue those smaller actions every day. People will notice how much better they feel when you’re around, how much more pleasant their workday is. It’s a great way to become valued, and then indispensable.