This weekend, I dropped by a local grocer's with Alex and something really lovely happened. I've already shared this on Facebook, but in case you missed it: I was standing at the butcher's counter with Alex, when suddenly the butcher, a woman I would guess is about 10 years older than I am, called out: "Hello, Ms. Karen!" Startled, I looked up, and stared into a light-filled, smiling face. She looked familiar, but I couldn't place her. After she finished helping the customer before me, she told me that she used to work at the grocery store I used to visit over 20 years ago. Then she caught me up on her life like we were old friends: telling me about where she had lived, the challenges she had faced over the past twenty years, and what she was up to now, when she wasn't working behind the counter. The whole exchange couldn't have been longer than 5 minutes or so, but when, toward the end of our conversation, she said, "Do you live around here? I hope you come see me again!" I knew there was no way I wasn't coming back to do my shopping there.
The entire episode reminded me of this article by Shawn Achor, an excerpt from his book Before Happiness, where he shares one of the secrets to the Ritz Carlton's success: the hotel has a policy called "the 10/5 Way," that states that "if a guest walks by a Ritz employee within ten feet, the employee should make eye contact and smile. If that guest walks by within five feet, the employee should say, 'Hello.'" It's such a little, minor thing, but results in huge positive impact for customer satisfaction and the hotel's bottom line.
I believe it. Many years ago, when I was just getting to know my dear friend Mark, we were sitting at a bar one afternoon and he remarked, "you know, you flirt with everyone." That's not exactly accurate -- I mean, I wasn't that girl. But it is true that when it comes to strangers -- like waiters, baristas, bartenders, people I pass on the street -- I am very mindful to look folks in the eye and smile. A lot. In fact, I've been this way for decades. I'd love to say I do it for altruistic reasons, like it's entirely about the fact that I care that people are having a good day (and of course I do); but to be absolutely honest, I do it for very selfish reasons, as well: after all, it's very difficult to greet a smile without smiling back. And when people smile back at me, I feel better. It helps make my day.
The fact is, I've been a staunch believer that happiness is contagious from way back.
So, go out and smile at a stranger today.
Have a great week, friends.
Song: This version of Every Little Thing She Does is Magic made me smile this weekend. And not just because of Sting's arms, either (click here or the image below to watch).