I sat in a half empty auditorium filled with folks whose somber looks indicated there were a thousand different places they would sooner be.
Instead, we all waited to see if we would be selected as jurors.
Jury duty is as the name indicates a duty. Even the most civic minded approach this experience with some trepidation. How long will it take? Will I be selected? How much of my previously planned life will I be forced to miss?
Against this backdrop, a pleasant woman approached the dais and began speaking into the mic. The tone of her voice belied the tone in the room. She welcomed us with a warm smile, cracked a few jokes (“We have to show up to jury duty every day, you only have to come once every six years”) and offered a measured perspective about why our service is important and what to expect. These expectations included a promise that our service would be limited to no more than a week and we would only be voir dired once.
Oh and she left us out a little early.
In a matter of less than five minutes, she had transformed the anticipation of an unpleasant experience into its polar opposite.
Later that day at a crowded Starbucks, I waited in a longish line for my drink as I was on deadline to finish writing an article. When my beverage was ready the barista, rather than annoyingly shouting my name, instead pleasantly called out “Thank you, Bob!”
I listened to him go about his job, chatting up people at the drive thru, “I have a sister named Haley! You both have great smiles.” Continuing his “thank you” calls to other customers, I was struck by his charm and the pleasant disposition he brings into this space.
And then I asked myself about how to enter a typical space and frankly didn’t like the answer.
While there are times I bound out of bed and greet my family with a joie de vivre, most days I probably seem more Eeyore than Tigger. While I’m not much of a morning person, I don’t have that excuse when I consider how I come home in the afternoon, enter a meeting, greet people on the street or even answer the phone.
Yet how hard is it to simply act pleasant? We carry the baggage and stressors from one moment to the next, one space to another, when often it just takes a simple reset to change our disposition. Perhaps a deep breath, a positive thought can do the trick.
Years ago I met Dr. Amit Sood who chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at the Mayo Clinic. He told us about meditative micro-moments that included sending positive thoughts to people he passed in the streets, starting each day by thinking of several things he has to be grateful for before even getting out of bed, and pausing before he opens the door to his home to contemplate how much he appreciates his family.
Each practice allows him to be more pleasant and present in how he enters different spaces and engages different people. Here is a short video describing his approach.
I don’t know if the jury supervisor or the Starbucks barista practices these skills, but they are definitely mindful of how they walk through this world. Offering positive energy and a pleasant experience.
The philosopher Horace once wrote, “He gains everyone’s approval, who mixes the pleasant with the useful.”
May your pleasant presence be greeted with approval this week.