Be Interesting Yourself…And Interested in Others!
As I’ve mentioned before, my dad and mom worked hard to give me a wonderful upbringing! In the chapter of his history entitled, “The Time for Marriage and Family” my father expresses that he and my mom had a heartfelt determination to be…“equally committed that in all areas our children should have the opportunity for full personal development.” It’s true, I grew up benefitting from a wide range of experiences and feel that my parents most definitely helped me become a more interesting and well rounded person as a result. My parents also tried to instill in me good habits of being able to recognize and celebrate the lives and accomplishments of other people too.
I think most of us remember that defining turning point in our lives, where wise parents made us a little more aware of the fact that the world didn’t necessarily center around our every need? (Imagine that!)
For me, it was one weekend evening when I was eleven or twelve years old. As I lounged in the middle of my parent’s big bed with pillows piled under my head and fuzzy purple slippers adorning my feet, I chattered away while watching my parents as they made final touches to their attire before leaving for a night of social commitments. Much like Lucy, a character in the “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles Shultz, I offered up my five cents worth of wisdom and lamented about the fact that their evening was sure to be less than eventful. In the loftiness of my pre-adolescence, I’m quite certain that I wondered aloud how my dad and mom could possibly go and be charming with people who I was sure had to be very boring! As my mom spritzed on her perfume and my dad smoothed the tie he had just knotted, my parents exchanged knowing glances. When they turned to exit the bedroom, my father spoke in somewhat of an exasperated voice, one that seemed to mimic my own previously stated glibness to a degree. “Mary,” he said, “I hope you’ll soon learn that life becomes a better experience when you’re not too self-centered!”
It’s always an ongoing process to live outside ourselves a bit, but my parents provided sublte examples of how it can be done in very gracious ways!
My dad and mom were always quick to greet friends and associates they met with a smile and a handshake, and ask for quick updates on their lives. My parents would often offer recognition for recent achievements and express sincere concern for any pressing worries the person might be facing at the time. They always seemed to take to heart the advice wisely given in one of my favorite booklets, “Live and Learn and Pass It On” by H. Jackson Brown. “I’ve learned that you can’t really expect your children to listen to your advice and ignore your example!”
My friends always seemed to enjoy being at our home and often got a real kick out of my dad when he shared with them some of his favorite record albums as he played them on our oversized stereo console. Eddy Arnold’s song “Green Green Grass of Home” and “Moon River” by Andy Williams, were among his favorite. I think my friends were also quite impressed that my father took the time to listen to the teenage accolades of their many music interests too! The back and forth banter that my father shared on many topics with my friends was sometimes a bit embarrassing for me, but I know it was his way of showing an interest in our lives!
Being Interested In Others Often Means Hanging Out The Welcome Sign
My dad and mom often hosted extended family gatherings, as well as eclectic mixes of neighbors and friends where someone’s recent trip adventures were highlighted or community activities and service projects were organized. In these seemingly simple ways, without much bravado, my parents showed that they were genuinely interested in others. Showing interest and doing these types of activities together seemed to make it easier for everyone to offer support during more trying situations.
My husband has said that one of the things he loved most when he first met my dad and mom was that they greeted him warmly and made him feel especially welcome. He noted that my parents were always quick to put aside whatever it was they were doing at the time, so they could sit down and visit with him and give him their undivided attention. I know my husband and children, along with many others who shared the privilege of visiting with my parents, can vouch for the fact that this was their customary fashion for welcoming others into their home. To this day, I have had some of my parent’s friends, and many of my own, tell me about the special memories they have of the kind interest they were shown by my dad and mom!
What I’m learning now is…
In his popular book “How To Win Friends And Influence People” acclaimed author, Dale Carnegie, outlined a good formula for making our lives more worthwhile:
Principle 1: Become genuinely interested in other people.
Principle 2: SMILE!
Principle 3: Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
Principle 4: Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
Principle 5: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
Principle 6: Make the other person feel important–and DO it sincerely.
In a nutshell, what I’m learning now is that my parents loved their family, and like most parents, they worked hard to provide opportunities to help each of us reach our individual potential. In doing so, they also knew that we needed to extend our view of the world, so to speak, beyond the narrow scope of our own lives! If ever there was a lesson that my parents tried to teach me, this is the one I wish I had been better at doing while they were still alive!
Please share ways that your parents have helped you know and love others better.