Often times, when we think of putting other people first, we envision doing significant acts of kindness or going out of our way to be helpful. We tend to think of big things that can take time, that require sacrifice, and involve effort on our part. That can be true, but often times the idea of putting other people first is actually in the little things, not the big ones. It’s letting someone go in front of you in line; it’s opening a door for someone with full hands; it’s picking something up that was dropped by another person. I would actually venture to say that putting others first is a lot more about doing the little things than it is about the big ones.
Let me suggest one “little” thing that, if we truly did it, would have a big impact. It is the gift of listening. Most of us are not actually listening to understand what the person is saying when they are talking but instead are actually listening to respond. While the person is talking, we are actually formulating what we want to say when they are done. When this happens, we stop truly listening to them and ultimately are thinking about ourselves. They definitely do not have our full attention (even though it might be appear as though they do), and we have switched the focus from them to ourselves.
In the United States, one of the bigger phone companies has produced a number of ads where the spokesperson is shown in different places around the country asking, “Can you hear me now?” It resonated with a lot of people because we have all been in that same situation, speaking loudly into our phones and asking that exact question. As we continue to think about and reflect on our theme this year, “It’s Still Not About Me,” one of the little steps we can take, truly listening to people, will hopefully result in the answer to the question above being a resounding, “Yes.”