Saturday, June 25, 2022

The strength of compassion

| October 17, 2021 1:00 AM

Late one night, a young grocery store clerk locked the front door and began to clean up. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. An elderly woman was standing outside, tapping on the window.

The clerk shouted, "We're closed!"

She said, "I just need a head of lettuce."

The clerk reluctantly let her in, and she headed to the produce section where she spent several minutes inspecting several heads of lettuce. She said, "Actually, I only need a half head of lettuce."

The clerk said, "I'll have to check it out with my manager." He went into his office and announced, "You won't believe this, but some idiotic, cranky old woman wants half a head of lettuce." Just as he finished talking, he noticed the woman standing behind him, so he turned back to his manager and said, "Fortunately, this fine woman will take the other half."

This young man knew the importance of good human relations. By sparing the woman's feelings, he knew she would be back again as a customer.

You can fail at almost anything and you will get another chance. But if you mess up even a little bit on human relations — people skills — you're usually done.

A Carnegie Foundation study once showed that only 15% of a businessperson's success could be attributed to job knowledge and technical skills. It showed that 85% of one's success would be determined by what they called "ability to deal with people" and "attitude."

These past months seem to have put a new emphasis on how we treat others. For months when we couldn't get together or go to work in person, we checked on neighbors and friends. Keeping in touch took on a new urgency. We missed the human interaction. Wouldn't it be amazing if that spirit of humanity continued long into the future?

As life slowly returns to normal, we are figuring out how to respect each other's ideas and concerns. This is certainly true as businesses reopen.

Where, you might ask, does this fit in business? Compassion and profitability are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, businesses that are perceived as people-oriented and good corporate citizens have a far better chance of succeeding than those that put profits ahead of people.

The main benefit is that compassion helps us to be happier and thus make others happier. Compassionate people are also more positive. That's why we should practice compassion every day of our lives.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that mean people are not happier or necessarily more successful. If you don't believe me, spend a few minutes on Twitter or Facebook. The comments are too frequently cruel or extreme, and they breed even more ugliness. That's the definition of "anti-social media."

When used well, the internet provides so many opportunities for kindness. It is possible to offer constructive criticism that has a positive result. That would be a great TikTok challenge!

The list below from an unknown origin offers a great starting point.

The six most important words in the English language are: "I admit I made a mistake."

The five most important words: "You did a great job."

The four most important words: "What is your opinion?"

The three most important words: "If you please."

The two most important words: "Thank you."

The single most important word: "We."

The least most important word: "I."

Memorize these phrases and use them when you respond to others in person or online. Give others the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. That would be a tremendous contribution to a civil society.

Mackay's Moral: Humanity is the difference between being human and being humane.

• • •

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website,, by emailing or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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