I recently attended my 10-year high school reunion and couldn’t believe just how much I’d forgotten over the last decade. I consider myself a very intentional person but I was blown away how many names, people, and events had completely slipped my mind.
One event that baffled me to no end was when I found out I had wronged someone I cared about in the fall of my junior year. Apparently, I didn’t stand up for them when I should have, it hurt this person’s feelings because she considered me a friend, and my lack of conviction made a lasting impression on her.
Here’s the weird thing: I barely remember that happening. Even when it was explained to me, my memory was still hazy.
But for the person who I had hurt, it was fresh in her mind. And my actions, or lack there of, had shaped her perception of me for the last 10 years.
What this means is that people are constantly forming opinions of us from daily interactions we may or may not remember. And that’s a little scary.
But it should also be motivating.
Because based on the sheer number of interactions we have every day, there is a high probability that there are people whose last memory of you is very negative.
This last memory, without a doubt, shapes how that person perceives you, your work, your beliefs, and more.
As I’ve started on this journey of helping people do work that matters and attempt to do it myself, I’ve realized one of our greatest human assets is social capital. Not only were we created to be in relationships with others, but our careers, families, and basic mental health depend on getting people to like us and liking them back.
This isn’t always true but I think people who succeed are generally the ones who are well liked. People want to follow big ideas and brands but they also want to affiliate themselves with a leader they trust, who they could sit down with over dinner.
You obviously can’t please everybody. And it’s impossible to go through life with everyone you meet becoming your friend. But here’s a tip:
Pretend every interaction you have with someone is the last thing they will ever remember about you.
Your brain can’t keep track of every conversation, so get it right the first time. You’ll never know how that small interaction will shape the future.
And if you’ve wronged someone, or even think you have, and you’re pretty sure that’s the last thing they remember, go fix it. Today. Create a new memory for them.
Bottom line: You want people on your team – people who like you. So start building the foundation of success with the bricks of social capital. It is the most important tool you have for inspiring others and making a real impact in the world.