Spring is a time of rebirth, and it’s a great time to take stock and renew ourselves, too. I recently reaffirmed my commitment to speak to everyone – in my network and strangers alike – as if every conversation is our last. I was inspired to renew this commitment after attending a memorial service for a woman who had died suddenly. Her family did the best they could selecting readings and music she would have wanted, and the minister suggested we all design our own memorial services and leave instructions for our loved ones.  I thought about mine on the drive home – who would sing which of my favorite songs, who I would ask to talk about the last conversation we had together.

I wanted to know what others use as guiding principles for how they treat people. Four themes emerged from those conversations. We treat others …

… as we ourselves want to be treated

They draw on their own feelings and thinking about how they’d want to be treated. They speak from their own experiences.

Treat everyone you meet as if they were you. ― Doug Dillon

… as if they need kindness

They keep Kirk Weisler’s words in mind, “Treat everyone you meet as if they are going through a major personal crisis and at least half of the time you will be right.” They speak with empathy.

… as if you are already connected

They recognize that even the most disparate strangers share a common humanity and may have known each other in a previous life. They speak from the heart.

Treat everyone as if they were your mother in a previous life – Tibetan tradition

… as if you will be connected

I heard a lot of stories about people making a snap decision about letting someone else take a parking spot, or slowing down to hold the door, or waiting another few seconds to hold the elevator open for someone; in each instance, the person they showed this small kindness to was someone they were on their way to meeting. In one instance, it was a category manager who let someone else have the parking spot they both wanted. The person he gave his spot up to was a new buyer he was meeting for the first time. A millennial woman on her way to a job interview, was deciding whether to hold the elevator for someone. The someone she held the door for was the woman she was interviewing with. She got the job.

Whether it’s someone in our network for a long time or someone we are about to meet for the first time nurture every connection.