Maya Angelou suggests there are four questions that we’re all unconsciously asking each other, all the time.
We ask the people we love, we ask the people who matter most to us and on a broader level, we ask the people we encounter as we go about our everyday lives: the cashier at Starbucks, the neighbor you acknowledge from your car, a person sitting across from you on the train.
The four questions rarely get asked with words and they’re rarely answered with words. They’re always silent questions, because they’re always unconsciously thought. When the silent answer to each of the four silent questions is a definitive YES, the love – our basic sense of humanity in community and relationships – becomes more palpable and is immediately felt.
The train ride into the city tends to be a quiet almost dreary existence with everyone engrossed in their phones, tablets and papers. Most of the passengers expressing an isolated almost a ‘leave me alone’ countenance. At one stop, a little girl came aboard the train carrying a handful of brightly colored packages. In each package were envelopes. she began handing out colorful envelopes to every person as she made her way through the cars. Almost everyone she handed an envelope to began to change their surly frown upside down.
Each envelope contained a letter.
Almost all of us on the train began to relax, open up to those around us even have conversation with one another as we’ve never done before.
Prior to this little girl’s momentary arrival and just as quick departure, we sit idly wondering. We have questions. We have questions that go unanswered, the ones we unconsciously ask, and we typically become restless in the moment. We grow weary and often seek the drama and distraction of attention to feel important.
We feel tension even fear begin to well up inside of us. And when we don’t get an answer to these questions, or worse, we receive a ‘no’ we feel even more disconnected from any sense of community.
The Four Critical Questions:
Do you see me?
Do you care that I’m here?
Am I enough for you, or do you need me to be better in some way?
Can I tell I’m special to you by the way you look at me?
The little girl’s simple act of kindness answered all of those questions by her actions. She rejuvenated community amongst us all on the otherwise lifeless train that morning. Whether it’s your kids,your colleagues, your partner, or when anyone in your community feels genuinely appreciated by you, it’s because you treat them in such a way that affirmatively answers each question consistently. It’s because when you look at them, you actually take the time to see them.
Scott Spector is Founder and Managing Partner of Brookestone Associates, an organizational development and culture influencing company advising leaders and company’s around the world. Read more here…