These days my mother likes to start our daily phone conversations telling me how tired she is or complaining about whatever ailment she is focused on that day. While she has earned the right at 93, it’s pretty exhausting to listen to. So to redirect the conversation, I consciously think about what I can share about my life before I dial the phone.
The other day, I told her about a very generous and unexpected gift a client sent to me.
Did you send her a thank-you note?”
From the time I was little my mother had it ingrained in me that when people did nice things, especially when they gave you gifts it was necessary to send a thank-you note and to do it as soon as possible. It was important to acknowledge that person and by doing so it would leave a good impression. Call it an early lesson in building a reputation.
Her question got me to thinking of the assortment of “little things” I do that have thus contributed to my personal brand and how so many of them came from what she taught me.
Be on time
Mom made sure she had my brother and I sitting in the living room with our hands neatly folded in our laps ready to leave for wherever we were going a good half hour in advance. It used to drive me crazy, because invariably we were waiting for my father who was not as punctual. But it did instill in me a sense that it was important to be on time – out of respect for the other person’s time and out of respect for my own.
My mother was always helping someone. Between our big fat Greek extended family, her friends and the neighbors there were plenty of people to help. If someone asked for help – she gave it – generously and of free spirit – and people never forgot.
Do nice things for people.
My mother is one of the most generous people I know. No agenda, she just did nice things because it felt good or because she thought “it was the right thing to do”. She was always the one baking something to give away. She never forgot a birthday and still remembers those of all her brothers.
Always look nice
Vanity might be one of the things that has contributed to her longevity. My mother still gets dressed up to go to the doctor and never goes to the mailbox without applying lipstick. She drilled it through my head early on that how you looked when you showed up somewhere made a statement about who you were.
She always told me I looked better when I smiled. Sometimes it made me want to do just the opposite, but it was true. I did look better when I smiled. I still do. And the funny thing is that all that smiling – in addition to leaving indelible smile lines – has and still does open doors.
Send thank you notes
After every Christmas holiday and birthday, as soon as it was over, the next thing I had to do was to write those thank-you notes for the gifts I received and express my gratitude. And so I have never given it a second thought as a business woman that a thank-you note is what you do after a meeting, a lunch or when someone does something nice for you. Like my client did last week.
So yes Mom – I wrote her a thank you note – and just to make sure it was not delayed – I emailed it.”