Do You Care?

Making a rather rough transition from my previous post, I want to take a bit to talk about caring. When we say the phrase “I don’t care”, what we are really saying is “I’m not concerned about that.” The word ‘care’ implies having an interest in providing for a person or thing the things that are necessary for life and comfort. Saying “I don’t care” is a colloquial turn of phrase which simply means something is not important enough to you to warrant your attention.

The fact of the matter is that people are concerned about somethings, and that level of care is translated into the many decisions that we make every day. For example, how do you determine when to answer your cell phone? When there’s nothing going on, you’re more likely to answer your phone than if you are in the middle of a meeting. Why? Because at various times you are more or less concerned with the phone call. But what if it is your wife or mother calling? Do you interrupt your meeting to take the call then? In that case, your concern is not based on the phone call as much as it is based on your concern for whom is calling.

Those decisions communicate specifically about your level of concern to other people. And other people get the message. When you return a call and say “I’m sorry, I was talking to someone else.” you are saying to that person that you are concerned about them and their needs at least as much as you were the person you were talking to, just not enough to end the other conversation and take their call. Or perhaps when you’re talking to someone and get another call on the other line and you say “I’m sorry, I have to take that call.” You have communicated that the other person and their needs is of greater concern to you than person you were previously speaking with.

This isn’t all bad. In fact, I chose my banker recently because of the concern that was expressed by his statements to me. He was on the losing side of a competition for my home refinance and was speaking with me on the phone, got momentarily distracted, and then said, “I’m sorry, I have to call back in a few minutes. My son is calling on the other line.” Good choice! Family takes precedence over work any day.

But what about when the choice is between you and someone else? What are you communicating when you take the last donut from the break room when you know others want it? What statement are you making when you decide to not let the other driver get over in front of you? Who are you most concerned with when you take the single parking place in the front of the lot, forcing other drivers to park hundreds of feet away?

When it comes to a head-to-head choice like that one, how does your decision communicate the level of concern you have for others… or for yourself?

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