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Scheme of Things

Those Little Words
By Nan S. Russell
Jul 6, 2013 - 1:53:19 PM

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Being part of a book club, I'd volunteered to host an evening event for a group of smart, engaging, funny women I've had the pleasure of sharing ideas with a dozen times a year for a few years now. However, as the date approached, I was juggling more than my typical work priorities and decided to create a less-stressed approach. So, I'd arranged extra housecleaning and a specialty food arrival via FedEx. I figured with a few bottles of wine, I'd be set.

Of course, it didn't happen as planned. Minutes before my housekeeper was expected, I received an email informing me of her need to change the schedule. What surprised me wasn't that, but the forgotten little words: "I'm sorry." I'm sorry I inconvenienced you; I'm sorry I gave you late notice; I'm sorry I couldn't help out today when you needed me. Those two simple words would have sufficed.

It seems in our life's busyness, we're dropping our little words. Words like - I'm sorry; excuse me; thank you; you're welcome, and please. I've been listening for these simple acknowledgements, finding the reverse of what used to be - more often than not, I don't hear them.

It still startles me. That happened last week when I received an email from someone I didn't know, asking for more information on a topic from my last book. I invested a half hour answering him, providing resources, and pointing him in the right direction. When I never heard back either an acknowledgement or a thank you, I was first surprised and then annoyed.

Now, before you label me "old-fashioned," wishing for eras gone by, consider what we're communicating to each other by eliminating simple expressions of gratitude, appreciation, acknowledgement, or understanding. Operating as if we don't "see" or care about others when we bump into them, change a commitment, ask for or receive help, reduces us to people who take without giving. In time, it changes who we are and the kind of relationships we develop.

In the scheme of things, it doesn't take much to provide a connection, acknowledge a person, or appreciate someone's efforts or time. It doesn't take much to express understanding, recognize a small mistake, or show gratitude. It doesn't take much to be a bit more human.

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, "The most important thing in any relationship is not what you get but what you give." In this age of digital communications and casual connections it's time, I think, to pause and ask ourselves - are we giving enough "little words" to each other?

(c) 2013 Nan S. Russell. All Rights Reserved.

Nan S. Russell is the award-winning author of "Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way." Her third book, "The Titleless Leader," was published May 2012. More about Nan and her work can be found at www.nanrussell.com.  Sign up to receive Nan's free monthly eColumn at: www.intheschemeofthings.com


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