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Friday, April 30, 2010

Small Gestures

Today I had an illuminating experience when dropping my daughter off at school. She was carrying gobs of extra stuff today, plus it was raining so she asked if I would drop her off near the door in the crazy-busy parking lot. Being a pushover, I said yes.

As I waited and waited and waited for an opportunity to back my car out of the lot and head on my merry way to work, a van with a teacher pulled in. I gave her a "wow, this is a challenge" look when she glanced at me. She shouted, "You should drop them off at the road, then you don't have to worry about this," and turned away and stalked off to the building.

My hackles rose ...and then I thought about how she could have made this comment in such a way that I would have been more receptive to her suggestion. What if she had smiled sympathetically, and then called that piece of advice, with the exact same words? That would have made a big difference. What if she had said, "It's easier if you drop them off at the road!" Somehow that would have been even easier to take, especially if accompanied by a smile.

It made me think of the interactions we have every day in libraries and the tiny ways we could tweak them to make our messages easier to receive. If you see someone do something that is obviously silly (especially if it is the 40th person that week), it's hard to remember that the way you speak and your body language can make a huge difference in the way the person takes that information in. Hmmm....lots of implications for public service in a library here, aren't there??

Good luck!


  1. This is something we were just talking about at work, about how many situations could be easily diffused with a smile, yet people seem to feel that if they use a stony glare, people will respect them more or something. I find I have to stop from being snarky or snippy in certain situations, since my mouth tends to go for barbs. Since I know this about myself, I keep a close check during tense situations to keep a smile on my face and in my voice and to keep that naughty part of my brain shut!

  2. Good for you, Monica! After I wrote this, I started noticing all the times I have not been practicing what I preach...Always more progress to make, I guess.