That surprising moment when you realize you’ve made an impact

A month or so ago, I gave a talk at a workshop put on by The Advancement Foundation. Circled up were 15 or so budding and growing entrepreneurs, freelancers, and business owners, mostly women. Just about smack in the center was a man who said almost nothing.

In fact, his face barely moved the entire time.

He sat there looking what I can only describe as blank. I assumed my talk wasn’t doing it for him but he was too polite or shy to just get up and leave mid-session. And that’s fine; you can’t win ’em all. The rest of the room was engaged and I had a great time.

After the talk, I was walking back through the lobby toward my car and that man stopped me. One-on-one, his face lit up as he expressed appreciation for the session.

As my mom says, “Go know!”

Who would have known that blank-faced man was in the midst of a memorable experience? I certainly didn’t, nor would I have known had he not stopped me.

There are two sides to this particular takeaway coin.

First, yet another reminder to make no assumptions. Let’s get real, though (and by real I mean embrace the inherent imperfection of it all) – it’s more like make an attempt to notice when we’re making assumptions so that we can then challenge them, whether by asking the object of our assumption their actual perspective or by imagining alternate interpretations of what we’re perceiving.

Second, tell people when they’ve made a happy impact on us! Whether it’s letting a stranger know that their smile brightened our day or writing a sappy, sentimental letter to a particularly meaningful teacher, friend, or relative, we can return the gift through the simple act of acknowledgement. 

There’s a third side to this magical takeaway coin, though: We rarely know when we’ve made a lasting impact on someone, for better or worse. And while we don’t get to control how people interpret interactions with us, we can put our best out there as consistently as possible.

Smile, connect; rinse, repeat.