June 16, 2012

Big and Small--Who's Who?

Yesterday, I go into a store with my daughter to shop for a new iPhone case.

A clean-cut kid--maybe 13 years old--comes out from behind the counter and asks me what I'm looking for.

I chat with the boy for a few minutes about their products and the prices of the various items--and I was genuinely impressed with this kid's "business savvy."

Sort of suddenly, a larger man emerges, whom I assume to be the boy's father.

Making conversation and being friendly, I say to the man, "Your son is a very good salesman."

The father responds surprisingly, and says, "Not really, he hasn't sold you anything yet!"

Almost as abruptly, he turns and stumps away back behind the counter.

I look back over at the kid now, and he is clearly embarrassed, but more than that his spirit seems broken, and he too disappears behind the counter.

My daughter and I look at each other--shocked and upset by the whole scene--this was a lesson not only in parenting gone wrong, but also in really poor human relations and emotional intelligence.

As a parents, teachers, and supervisors, we are are in unique positions to coach, mentor, encourage, and motivate others to succeed.

Alternatively, we can criticize, humiliate, and discourage others, so that they feel small and perhaps as if they can never do anything right.

Yes, there is a time and place for everything including constructive criticism--and yes, it's important to be genuine and let people know when they are doing well and when we believe they can do better.

I think the key is both what our motivations are and how we approach the situation--do we listen to others, try and understand their perspectives, and offer up constructive suggestions in a way that they can heard or are we just trying to make a point--that we are the bosses, we are right, and it'll be our way or the highway.

I remember a kid's movie my daughters used to watch called Matilda and the mean adult says to Matilda in this scary way: "I'm big and your small. I'm smart and your dumb"--clearly, this is intimidating, harmful, and not well-meaning.

Later in the day, in going over the events with my daughter, she half-jokingly says, "Well maybe the kid could've actually sold something, if they lowered the prices" :-)

We both laughed knowing that neither the prices nor the products themselves can make up for the way people are treated--when they are torn down, rather than built up--the results are bad for business, but more important they are damaging to people.

We didn't end up buying anything that day, but we both came away with a valuable life lesson about valuing human beings and encouraging and helping them to be more--not think of themselves as losers or failures--even a small boy knows this.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Allen Ang, and these are not the people in the blog story.)


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