would have figured that by this stage in my career, I wouldn't
be ignored so much. Yet, when I sent a proposal for my next
book to a dozen publishers, most of them didn't even give
me the courtesy of a rejection. A week ago, I left a voicemail
asking my supervisor at the San Francisco Chronicle to call
me. I'm still waiting. I e-mailed my daughter a week ago and
even she hasn't responded!
Being ignored is dispiriting, even to someone
who is successful. You feel like you don't count. Imagine
what it must feel like for a job seeker who's been looking
for a job for months, who works her butt off crafting a careful
job application and gets no response. Silence. As though she's
not even worth a rejection letter.
And imagine any of the millions of low-level employees, doing
an unglamorous, thankless job day after day, year after year.
How often would you imagine he gets praised? How often would
you guess someone notices when he comes in wearing a hangdog
expression? Or a new shirt? Or when he's sighing, frustrated
with a task?
Even big shots get ignored. Many of my clients
are senior executives, college presidents, doctors, lawyers
and the like. Guess what? They too feel bad when they get
a nice haircut and no one notices. Or that their supervisees,
clients or customers rarely ask how they're doing. Not just
a perfunctory, "How are you?" but asked in a way that shows
As we go through the holiday season, I can't
think of a better time to promise yourself that you're going
to be nice. Can I ask you to look for opportunities to pay
attention to the human side of co-workers, customers and bosses?
Bosses need love, too.
Hint: Consciously look for changes in people.
If a person seems more upbeat than usual, say something like,
"You seem particularly up today. Anything special happen?"
Or if they seem unusually blue, "Hi, Joe. You look a little
down. Anything going on that you feel like talking about?"
If you notice an overweight person looking slimmer than the
last time you bothered to notice, how about saying, "Hey,
you're looking trim." Tip: If an overweight person looks bigger
than usual, that's something you might refrain from mentioning.
The holiday office party offers particularly
rich opportunities to pay attention to people. For example,
walk up to a wallflower, say hi and ask a question that invites
a personal interaction such as, "Are you looking forward to
the holidays?" At parties, I make a point of striking up a
conversation with the least attractive person in the room
who is alone and looking uncomfortable.
Yeah, I know that sending rejection letters
to job applicants won't improve your bottom line, but at least
during the holiday season, might you want to be nice, even
if it doesn't pay in dollars and cents? And can I push you
even further? Add a line or two of feedback in that rejection
form letter. For example, "David, we were really impressed
with your ability to think on your feet, but we needed someone
with a lot of industry connections."
And if you're one of those people who feels
ignored, please take solace in knowing that unfortunately
in our ever-faster-paced society, humanity is often a casualty.
There are plenty of unquestionably worthy people who too are
being ignored. The best thing you can do is to stop feeling
sorry for yourself. Get out of your head and keep your antennae
out for opportunities to show a little kindness. You'll feel
better, I promise. It's corny but true that it feels better
to give than to receive. It may even help your career.
I'm all for efficiency and productivity, but
it's a little sad when so many of us feel ignored, especially
around the holidays. The answer is simple. It's embedded in
the holiday spirit: Make an extra effort to treat others as
you'd want to be treated: with a little love.