For years now, as a driver, I have been frustrated when I pull up to a stop sign at an intersection and, without even looking, a pedestrian begins crossing in front of me. Sometimes it seems as if heís deliberately sauntering across as slowly as possible. I get steamed. From my perspective itís always the pedestrian that is somehow wrong, even though he has the right of way.
Then, last Friday as I walked out of Shelburne Health and Fitness in an endorphin haze from my workout, I looked left and noticed an SUV coming toward me down the driveway.
ďNo problem, Iíll go ahead and cross,Ē I thought to myself as I started for the parking lot. As the pedestrian, my reasoning was: ďIím the pedestrian here; the car can brake and slow down.Ē And then, for some inexplicable reason, I wondered: ďWhat would I be thinking about me if I was the driver of the car?Ē Suddenly, the shoe was on the other foot.
Therein lies the conundrum. When youíre the pedestrian itís all about how you have the right of way and the car can wait. When youíre driving the car, itís all about how frustrating it is that you have to wait while the pedestrian slowly makes his or her way across the intersection. Itís all about perspective, my perspective versus the perspective of the other guy. In a nutshell we live in a world where itís often ďall about me.Ē Itís the world seen through my perspective only.
This me-centric view of is a prime cause of the frustration people feel with the incivility they experience today. Itís the perceived thoughtlessness of the other guy that is frustrating.
One place to begin addressing the incivility is within each of us: look at yourself through the lens of the other guy. Think of the crosswalk as a metaphor for all those frustrating situations we find ourselves in each day. Before you step out into that crosswalk, stop, take a look around, and consider waiting for the car to pass. Conversely, if a pedestrian does saunter across in front of you, take a deep breath, relax, and smile at the guy lost in his own world. If we all spend a little more time thinking about any situation from the other guyís perspective, the world just might be a more pleasant place.
ďTurn right at the next intersection.Ē That sweet voice with a slight British accent guides me through a labyrinth of turns on my way into Boston. Iíll willingly ask her for directions by entering the destination, and then, even more remarkably, Iíll listen to her instructions even when they take me the long way to get there. Most amazing of all, I wonít get frustrated or angry with her.
Recently, I was with my brother-in-law in Knoxville, Tennessee, for his sonís wedding. We had a morning free from obligations so we headed out for a round of golf on a nearby public course. Unfortunately, the route took us on an interstate, which at one point crisscrossed over several layers of entrances and exits. The GPS failed us at a critical moment, and, of course, we missed our exit. Through it all we managed to keep our cool, use the GPS to give us a new routing, and made it to the course in time for our tee-time. Never once did we yell at or argue with that electronic device.
My wife thinks itís incredibly funny that men, including me, will willingly listen to and take directions from a computerized voice in a GPS unit, but wonít consider asking for directions from the live body sitting in the passenger seat. We wonít even get annoyed at that electronic voice, but weíll bristle at the slightest hint of a suggestion for when to turn made by the female in the passenger seat. And we wouldnít even think about actually stopping to ask for directions. That would be tantamount to admitting defeat.
Maybe thatís the key to why we listen to that computerized British-accented-female voice on the GPS unit. Weíre never judged by her. We can make a mistake, and she simply adjusts course and continues without missing a beat or making a snide comment.
Airplane Seatback Poll Results. At the end of my March 27 blog about airplane seatbacks, I asked readers if they want seatbacks left as is, if airlines should reduce the recline by 50%, or if seatbacks should not recline at all. The results of the poll show that 48.7% of respondents think seatbacks are fine the way they are, 29.9% would like the amount of recline reduced by 50%, and 24.4% think seatbacks should not recline at all. Looks like the status quo wins.
A recent ad based on a Well-Dressed Men Survey done for Menís Wearhouse states that 29% of women will refuse to go on a second date with a man who doesnít dress well. A similar 29% assert: ďTheyíd consider breaking up with someone if he didnít dress well.Ē
Iím shocked that 71% of women will look past the poor dressing habits of men.
I donít think 71% of clients, prospects, or managers would ignore a person who, from their point of view, dresses inappropriately. And that is the heart of the issue: from their point of view. Perspective matters, and in business it is often the opinion of the other person that matters.
Attire says volumes about the kind of worker you are and the kind of work you will do:
Dress sloppily: you do sloppy work.
Ignore the company dress code: you donít respect the company or your fellow employees.
Dress smart: Youíre the kind of person I want to work with.
In each of these situations the telling point is that it was the other personís opinion of you that was important, not how you saw yourself in the mirror that morning. Make the effort to be neat, clean, appropriate to the situation, understated, and respectful of the people you will be with. Youíll keep the focus on the skills and capabilities you bring to the table. Looking professional goes a long way to being perceived as one. In fact in the survey: "Three-quarters (75%) of Americans think well-dressed men are more successful in the workplace than guys who arenít as put together."
Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament last week Ė the first official PGA tournament win for him in 924 days. At the end of the match, when celebration and excitement could take precedence, there was Tiger shaking hands with playing partner Graeme McDowell.
And both men had taken off their hats. When professional golfers complete a round, they remove their hats as they shake hands. I see this same measure of respect accorded ordinary golfers at courses everywhere. The last putt falls, the hats come off, and they all shake hands.
Itís such a simple gesture, removing a hat as a measure of respect. Tiger even acknowledged the crowd by taking his hat off to them in a sweeping gesture. Nice. Removing oneís hat has been a part of greeting and interacting for centuries. Yet today, there seems to be an aversion to removing a hat, especially a baseball cap. Iíve seen teenagers and grown men and women sitting at restaurant tables with their caps on. Iíve seen caps left on when people have entered other peopleís homes. I havenít figured it out, this reluctance to remove a baseball cap.
People notice the small things we do even if they donít say anything. For example, if a guy enters his friendís home and takes his hat off as he says hello, his action is recognized, even if it isnít commented on (and, by the way, it shouldnít be commented on). But it is noticed, and itís one small gesture among many that helps define the image other people have of him.
So the next time, you enter a personís home, or sit down to eat in a restaurant, or greet someone, or congratulate someone at the end of a round of golf, take your hat off. The other people will notice and appreciate you all the more for your demonstration of respect for them. If youíre wondering when it is appropriate to wear a hat and when to take it off, The Emily Post Institute has the answer.