Have you ever given thought to the feeling you leave behind, after you’ve spent time with someone?
Think about what Maya Angelou said so eloquently, “ I learned that people will forget what you said, will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
Last year, I was having lunch at a small deli with my husband. I was enjoying my time when I noticed two women that were being seated near us. I looked directly at one woman and immediately, a horrible feeling came over me. I knew this woman looked familiar to me but couldn’t place her in my life. What I knew was this— the moment she walked in, her presence made me very uncomfortable.
In my head, I searched for meaning. Who was this woman that elicited such strong, negative feelings from me? How strange it was that I would feel so much but remember so little! I sifted through my brain to make sense of my strong reaction to her presence. She smiled at me with some recognition but I still could not place the memory. I actually felt guilt for feeling such strong negative feelings about someone that smiled at me! Her presence interrupted my lunch and I had difficulty eating the rest of my meal. My husband could sense the change in my mood.
It took me two arduous hours of racking my brain to make the connection before I finally got it. Eventually, I had a memory flash of being in school, working on my Masters. I saw this woman standing in the front of the class and explaining the very difficult project for the quarter. I saw everyone squirming in their seats when she made it so clear how this one project would predict our whole grade for the class. The problem was that she made it so very difficult to ask her any questions as to what she truly wanted.
I also remember waiting for her to come into the classroom (apparently she was running late) and feeling uncomfortable that I needed to ask her if I could get into one of her other classes. As she came in, I wanted to grab her attention before she started class. I walked up to her and began to ask my question. She didn’t let me finish my sentence but barked for all to hear, “the least you can do is let a person get to their desk before you start attacking them”. I was embarrassed and felt like a 6-year-old child. I ended up not asking her whether I could get into her class.
With expectations always high for this professor, I was terrified to turn in the huge end-of-quarter project. I was shocked to get my paper back— she had given me an almost perfect score (unheard of) and had added a paragraph as to how she was so impressed. The funny thing is, you’d think the results of my project would negate all those bad feelings. Not even a little bit!
Yes, I was left with the feeling that the woman enjoyed making me and others feel uncomfortable. I was left with the feeling that she needed to control and intimidate everyone that she came across in her life. The feeling that I just didn’t want to be around her— then and now. Honestly, I don’t remember all the words she used but I remember how she made me and others feel inside. Apparently, enough that I didn’t remember her— all I remembered was the feeling.
So I ask you to think about this— what feeling do you leave in the air after you spend time with someone? Is it a feeling of hope, kindness, and authenticity? Is it a feeling of trust, sincerity, and integrity? Because the truth is that even when others might not remember the words you used, the emotion you made them feel will be etched in their memory forever.