When Was the Last Time You Opened the Door for a Total Stranger?
First, let me clarify a point regarding English language usage, which may be obvious to some, but not all, readers.
To open a door “for” someone means to offer a courtesy by opening or holding open a door and allowing the other person to pass through before you. To open a door “to” someone means to open a door and allow someone to enter through the door and into your home, office or wherever.
Because of potential confusion among some readers on the usage of “to” and “for” in this context, let me emphasize I am not suggesting you open your door to total strangers.
Opening doors for other people, on the other hand, is a different matter. If they are strangers, or people from a different walk of life, opening a door for them may provoke surprise. Most likely, it will be the kind of surprise which brings a smile to their face.
Some may ask “why bother opening a door for a stranger?”, unless that person is handicapped, elderly, heavily pregnant, pushing a baby stroller, etc.
That’s precisely the question we should think about. I think the answer is a very simple one: “Because we can make one very small corner of the world, for one very short moment, a happier, more civilized place.” Given the abundance of bad news and vexing social issues in the world around us, that is a meaningful, if small, contribution.
Just like improving our individual behavior with regard to environmentally responsible practices, or social responsibility, we — you and I — must be the starting point for change which affects others, and causes others to notice. Eventually this contributes to wider changes in society. If we don’t take the first step, there is little to no chance that others will follow.
We’re all busy, and naturally focused on our own problems and issues. It’s all too easy to open the door for ourselves and continue through it, on our own path. Much, if not most, of the time, that’s what we will do.
But one of these days it would be good to start the day by thinking ahead and making a conscious decision to surprise someone with an unexpected act of courtesy and kindness. Even a small one, like opening a door for a stranger.
Chances are, it will brighten the day for both of you, even if for a brief moment. And it might even be contagious.
Surprise is a powerful tool for making impressions on people. Super successful sales people aim to surprise customers with better than expected service. This builds loyalty and repeat business.
The goal of surprise in sales is tangible and objective: ultimately, to get more business and earn more money. That’s obvious, and perfectly legitimate.
When a surprise act of kindness is exercised without any obvious self-interest, it can have an even bigger impact. Unexpected courtesy, unconnected to any expected payback, makes a deeper positive impression than we imagine.
I had an Australian friend named George who lived in a small rural village in Hong Kong. George passed away many years ago, but he left a lasting impression on me and many others as a gregarious and friendly chap who would routinely greet total strangers on the street with a smile and a warm hello.
True, during those days 20 or more years ago, life and work were generally simpler and more relaxed than in today’s hustle-bustle, face-paced world. Today, many of the people George would be greeting would be too busy looking at their smartphones to even notice.
Maybe that’s exactly the point of why opening the door for total strangers is the kind of thing we need to do more often.
It’s also beneficial to bring this kind of attitude into your workplace. Building a personal reputation as someone who surprises internal and external customers with considerate and thoughtful behavior will set you apart from the crowd, in a positive way. If it brings criticism or back-biting behind your back, ignore it, because it’s the right thing to do.
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