Laura Eurich // Authentic Thoughtfulness

April 18, 2019

Laura Eurich is an Associate Chair, Director of Undergraduate Studies, and Internship Director for the Department of Communications at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She is also serving as faculty advisor on our Food Access project.

I don’t know how much stamps cost. Online bill paying is mostly to blame for my ignorance. Though the creation of Forever stamps is another culprit. For as little as I use stamps, I have learned to buy a book of Forever stamps because by the time I get to the end of a package, chances are the prices have changed. For the last decade or so, instead of having a value printed in them, my stamps have read “FOREVER.”

But I can also credit some exceptional customer service that I recently encountered for keeping me in the dark.

A couple months ago, I stopped in to the closest UPS store to drop off a pre-paid package and I needed a stamp to mail one item. When I reached into my wallet to grab some change to pay for the stamp, the cashier waved me off. “Don’t worry about it,” she said as she handed me the stamp and took my envelope to mail. With that investment of about 50 cents (yes, I looked up the price of stamps), a loyal customer was born.

Regular readers of the Quad blog come looking for insights about leadership, so you might be wondering how a free stamp relates to leadership. The thoughtfulness that cashier demonstrated reminded me that small gestures make big differences.

During a time when people are arguing with complete strangers 280 characters at a time on platforms like Twitter, sometimes it feels like we’ve lost sight of all civility, never mind doing nice things for each other.

While “pay it forward” campaigns tap into this idea, it’s not about doing something nice because someone did something nice for you. (Pay it forward is all good until the car in front of you at the coffee drive-through paid for your $4 coffee and in returning the favor you pay $18 for the car behind you.)

I’m talking about a more authentic thoughtfulness. How I strive to achieve this might not work for you – because it’s about authenticity. But for me, it’s slowing down, taking the time to be in the moment and really listen. The next step is remembering and following up. It can be as simple as checking back in with a student who told me about an exam they were worried about. It can be sharing a link to a website after learning a friend is crazy about Maine Coon cats.

Can you think of the last time someone did something thoughtful for you? I bet even if it’s been a while, you remember how you felt. As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

People want to feel valued, they want to feel seen, they want to feel understood. And it doesn’t take grand gestures to make people feel that way.