The Smile Reserve

Some people believe that they have a limited supply of kindness. After the first ten people, for example, their “smile reserve” will dry up, and there will be no more smiles for anyone else. Their “anticipate needs” reserve will be empty, and their “learn preferences” reserve will be depleted. They feel like they can’t actually be nice to every customer they meet. It’s not possible! Or is it? 

Commuter flight

Recently, I was on board a small commuter plane that was staffed with one flight attendant. The first person to board the plane was an elderly lady, and I saw the attendant give her a warm hug and big smile before she boarded. When the other passengers boarded, however, there were no smiles for anyone else. In fact, there was barely any eye contact. The elderly lady was seated in the front row close to where the flight attendant was sitting, and the attendant smiled EVERY time she spoke with her. The other passengers got nothing of the sort. 

We can reason that the attendant was nice to the elderly lady because she knew her. It was obvious that they had some type of relationship. Really, is it fair to expect the attendant to be as nice to perfect strangers as she is to someone she obviously knows?

Well, it was obvious that she knew HOW to smile and be hospitable. It was also obvious that she knew how to be warm and congenial. The attendant merely decided who she would be warm and congenial with.  

There are those who reserve their smiles for:

  • People who they know
  • People who they find attractive
  • People who are in their same age group
  • People who are in their same race
  • People who they perceive to be in their same socio-economic status
  • People who they believe they can get something from (tips, job promotions, etc)

If you are in the business of serving people, the assumption is that you actually like people. Regardless of the industry, the vast majority of people you serve will, in fact, be complete strangers. This means that if you don’t enjoy being nice to people you don’t know, then you are probably in the wrong line of work.  

There is something beautiful about someone who knows there is no limit to their kindness. They know that their smiles won’t, somehow, vanish when used often. They also know that by approaching service with love in their heart that customers will always feel genuinely cared for. They know that they can, and will, be nice to every person they serve. They will strive to learn the preferences of every person they serve. They will look to do more than the bare minimum with every person they serve. And the reason they will do this is because they…love…people; regardless if they know them, or if they find them attractive, or if they are in the same age group, or if they are in the same race, or if they are in the same socio-economic group, or if they believe they can get something from them.

So, my challenge to you (and myself) is to love people, period. And serve people, period. Then, everything else will take care of itself.

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