The wink happened when I was Christmas shopping in downtown Seattle. Let’s talk about what I discovered and what you can do that will change the world for the better.
About that wink. A couple of Christmases ago I was shopping in an upscale department store in downtown Seattle. I was cutting through the men’s department headed to the escalator when a young woman behind the sales counter said to me: “Wow, your sense of style is rather amazing. Just the right jeans with that vest and shirt. And those boots. So nice.” She flashed me a warm smile.
And then she winked at me.
Not a “relax, I’m kidding” wink but another kind of wink entirely. I recall my face feeling warm, stuttering a ‘thanks’ and feeling pretty cool about my fashion choices. I had a bit more spring in my step.
But then…I slowed down and thought about that wink.
I circled back behind a rack of overcoats. I pretended to shop while eavesdropping. I started taking notes on her conversation.
In just a few minutes I heard her say to a man passing through: “Those are the coolest glasses. Bold. They do nice things for your face. I’m pretty sure most guys couldn’t pull those off. But I love them.” You could tell Glasses Guy was delighted by how he responded. He and she exchanged pleasantries and discussed some gift ideas. I was pretty sure he got the wink, too.
I peeked between the coats at Glasses Guy. About my age (although not dressed as well). He was looking at ties with her.
Later in the day, I detoured back through the men’s department and managed to see her do the same technique on another dude. Compliment his appearance. Affirm his look. Shoot a big smile (didn’t spot the wink).
I had trouble sorting out exactly why this moment felt so icky.
Dictionary.com says flattery is the act of flattering.
to try to please by complimentary remarks or attention
to praise or compliment insincerely, effusively, or excessively
to represent favorably; gratify by falsification
to play upon the vanity or susceptibilities of; cajole, wheedle, or beguile
That’s clearer. Gratify by falsification. Play upon vanity. Excessive.
Yep. I’m pretty sure I’d been flattered by that woman to increase her sales quota. She may have done some reading (or received some “sales” training) on a less than savory element of neuro linguistic programming. Flattery does work to get a shopper’s attention. Flattery can make a person more inclined to engage. Flattery can feel superficially awesome.
Contrast that with another experience.
I was walking the dog a few weeks ago. A friend was driving by, stopped his car and yelled out the window:
“Steve Thomas, I read something you wrote online. It sounded just like talking with you. It was awesome.”
That was an amazing experience. I am trying to write more. It’s not easy for me. I work hard to deliver something worthwhile. It felt so cool that someone I respect had said that.
I was wondering what’s the difference between flattery and encouragement?
Dictionary.com says encouragement is the act of encouraging (duh). Anyway,
to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence
to stimulate by assistance, approval, etc.
to promote, advance, or foster
Alright, flattery is manipulation and encouragement is inspiration.
And this is where I nearly tossed out everything I’d written you.In the face of pandemic and economic struggle, I’m talking with you about flattery and encouragement? I want our conversations to be about influence and wise living. A moment with some meaning. This seemed waaayyyy too light and fluffy. You know?
But then I reflected on the encouraging words I’ve heard from people I respect. Even decades later, I can feel the impact of their words.
Think back to a teacher in elementary school who encouraged you. Or to a high school coach who believed in you more than you believed in yourself. Or that mentor who spoke truth at the right time. Those voices of encouragement can feed our souls for years and years.
Encouragement counts, doesn’t it?
We could all use some encouragement right now.
Encouragement isn’t a gift or a talent that only a few special people have. It’s a decision and awareness. And a commitment.
It seems to me that encouragement needs to be:
- True (not a polite fiction)
- Personal (not something that could be said to anyone)
- Specific (not vague or sweeping)
- Inspiring (it points to a higher place)
I bet you have time for a quick text, an email, a note or a call to encourage someone.
Don’t talk yourself out of it. Take a second now and encourage someone. You don’t need a reason, take the chance. Think of someone you know that you could bless with something true, personal, specific and inspiring. You’ll make a difference.
Before I end this email, let me bring one more thing to your attention. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could see past our differences and encourage each other? My buddy, Jim Hendersonis getting people with differing viewpoints in conversations (and listening to each other!!). Here’s a video. You’ll know in the first 3 minutes if it’s interesting to you. You can sign up to participate in one of his free online events here. More info on his website. Do the world favor and check it out.
Thank you to all of you who reached out on last week’s email about considering bad things. I appreciate your perspective and those conversations.
Grateful for you. You can always email me: sthomas AT oneicity DOT com
If you know someone who might enjoy this email, forward it to them and tell them to click this link to get an email of their very own (I’m grateful).