It’s Cloudy Out There

I entered a local eatery recently and approached the station for placing orders. A gentleman was standing in front of me, but off to the side, so I inquired if he was in line. He said he was, and then apologized for standing there slouching. “My mother always told me not to slouch,” he said. This led us to a conversations about things our mothers told us not to do, and other words of wisdom our generation learned from an older generations.

His turn came, he went to place his order. As the next cashier became available, a young woman walked past me and usurped my rightful turn. The cashier, who knows me by name and witnessed what happened quickly apologized as I signaled her to go ahead with that order. She later rewarded my patience with a free cookie – but that’s not my point.

The young woman who took my place in line was so engrossed in her smartphone that she oblivious to her surroundings. Not only that, she was not a witness to her own behavior. Fortunately, she only walked in front of me rather than in front of a car that someone was driving. Her behavior shouted to me because of two different events I’d attended the day before. As I ate my lunch, I couldn’t help but ponder it further.

The morning event was a discussion about the importance of self-awareness for leaders. This quickly evolved into the role it plays in all our lives – the depth and breadth of your awareness and importance of being present. The topic of peripheral vision somehow emerged and one participant shared the difficultly he had teaching his children to drive. He commented that he came to realize that since they were so used to being focused on electronic devices, they had not developed the ability to view their surroundings with a wide-angle lens.

The evening event was a discussion about civility in America. One of the topics that was explored by the panel, who included Lizzy Post – a millennial member of THE Post family – was entitlement versus empathy. They talked of entitlement in terms of individuals feeling entitled to be comfortable – to dress, talk, act the way that’s comfortable for them. If empathy is lacking – more precisely, the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it like would be like to be in that person’s situation – incivility can quickly follow.

Millennials often are regarded as, or worse labeled as, “self-absorbed.” I don’t like labels because they imply stereotypes and stereotypes lead to bias. However, thinking about this young woman who took my place in line, it became evident why this notion of a self-absorbed generation originated. It’s the result of observed behavior. Behavior such as hers demonstrates a lack of awareness – not being present in the moment – which gets interpreted as a lack of consideration for others.

My mother always said that actions speak louder than words. She had a great deal of wise words.

My words of wisdom for this week to folks from any generation is to get you head out of The Cloud. Get grounded – not by spending your time looking down but by gaining more awareness of what’s happening around you.

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