I recently ran into a woman I’d worked with over 10 years ago. We had worked together in a 50-person office for almost 2 years…and she had no recollection of me. While that in itself is not surprising — it had been several years, after all — I realized during our conversation that she didn’t remember me because, at the time I worked with her, I was in an entry-level role in my company and she was a manager. Even though I interacted with her every single day for almost two years, I had been invisible.
That led me to think about all the people who pass through our lives invisibly day after day: the mailroom assistants; janitors; coffee baristas.
People yearn for connection and to feel significant in some way. We want to feel that we matter to others. People who have deeper connections with others enjoy better health and well-being. The need to belong is a basic human need, and what better way to belong than to be known by those around you? Our propensity to treat people as invisible as we go through our day means that we may miss those moments of belonging and deep connection. A happy life is made up of small moments of joy. Who knows what joy we miss out on by not making eye contact with the people around us, by not bothering to learn the names of people who serve us, by rendering people invisible.
What can we do to establish connections with those around us?
- Make a point of noticing others. Have you ever eaten in a restaurant and realized your water glass had been re-filled, but you had no recollection of it? Next time, turn your head and look at the waiter who is pouring your drink; thank him for his service to you. Make note of his name.
- Put the smartphone away, for just a moment, and be present. Too often, we have our eyes on our phones, reading texts, emails, messages from friends who are not with us, while ignoring the people standing right beside us. We do it while standing in line at the grocery store, while ordering a coffee, or even while having dinner with friends. Put the phone away, and pay attention to those around you. Be present.
- Learn the names of those who come into contact with regularly. The mailroom assistant, the lady who walks her dog by your house each morning, the drycleaner. Each person can add to your daily moments of joy and help you feel more connected to others.
Not only will making connections help to strengthen your own life and improve your health, but it will prevent others from being and feeling invisible so that, 10 years from now, when you run into someone who says, “Remember me?”, you can say with joyful certainty, “Why of course I do! You haven’t changed a bit.”
By the way, the mailroom assistant in our office is named Leanne.