Nice to see you

A surprising and generous lesson from Richard Branson.

I have a confession to make. I had a bit of a lazy, indulgent morning this morning. It’s the Friday before the holiday weekend, and instead of focusing on the day ahead, I decided to watch a little TV with my morning coffee. If you didn’t know, let me share my first learning: 8.30am on a Friday morning is NOT the best time to find compelling and exciting viewing. I channel surfed cringing at the endless reruns of Real Housewives episodes, the Kardashian clan, and yet another home makeover that looks ridiculously simple.

I paused on the show “A day in the life of Richard Branson.” I instinctively knew it would be entertaining because Richard Branson is known for being an entertaining CEO. I was curious too. What lesson was there to learn? I thought it would be the standard message from the Branson archives: “Go for it! Be original!” Surprisingly, almost immediately, a different story emerged.

Photo credit:  Jarle Naustvik

Photo credit: Jarle Naustvik

Branson had spent his previous evening at the Palace (yes Buckingham Palace) at a dinner with the Queen and President Obama, as one does. After dinner, Branson headed through the airport to fly to Chicago to announce the launch of a new route for Virgin America. As the cameras followed him, people at the airport recognized him and reacted, over and over again. His response to every person was, “Nice to see you!” The cameraman even asked Branson if he’d paid the people.

What stood out to me was the expression “Nice to see you.” How do you greet people, especially strangers, when they greet you? Do you just give a noncommittal “Hi,” just do that half smile, or do you just keep walking?

Think about the different interactions for a moment. A passing “Hi,” just sends a message of “yes, I see you, and you see me.” The half smile just implies “thank you for recognizing I exist.”

In a short, simple connection, you are told you matter.

Branson, however, says “Nice to see you.” What message is he conveying? Absolutely nothing about him; it’s all about the other person. It’s almost like he’s saying, “thank you for seeing me, and you matter to me.” Such a simple sentence conveys the other person matters.

Watch the entire show, and you’ll see that this is validation that the other person matters happens all day, every day. In the smallest and kindest of ways, he uses his celebrity and influence to message to others that they count.

This was a lesson I wasn’t expecting to get from watching a day in the life of Richard Branson. In reality, I’m not even sure the show was trying to teach that particular lesson. How do you make people feel like they matter?

I’m on a mission to help people understand how they matter. Getting this lesson on the small things I can do to make this a reality was a gift. Like Branson, I’m going to start saying “Nice to see you.”

Anyone want to join me?

A note before I sign off. I thought I’d practice the “nice to see you” expression this weekend. Honestly, saying the phrase felt odd. But then anything you do for the first time seems odd, so I’m going to keep trying. Nice to see you.

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