Friday, March 25, 2011

How to Show People You Care - Proximity

One of the most powerful ways you can show someone that you care is actually one of the most simple. Sit beside them.

I sing in the choir at church, so I have a good view of the whole auditorium as people make their way to their seats before the worship service. There’s always a few people who come in a little late—usually visitors or people who don’t attend very often. They walk in the door and look around. There’s usually at least a couple of seats available close to the aisle, but they don’t sit there. They bypass that and chose another pew—a pew with several people sitting there. The whole family climbs over the legs of two or three other people and they pack the pew as full as it can be. This might seem strange until you realize that the family matriarch was already seated on that pew.

I’ve seen some of the teachers in our church work in, see some class member who is sitting off by herself and purposefully choose to sit next to that person. Even if they don’t say a word, I’m sure you realize the power in that. It is a mark of friendship.

Of course, it can also backfire. Image the person who is sitting alone and a large family comes in and says, “would you mind scooting down so we can all sit together?” Now the person doesn’t feel wanted but in the way instead. I suppose that even that points to the importance of proximity. We all have what we consider to be our personal space, but we want to let people into that personal space. What we don’t want to do is for people who care nothing for us to just take that personal space.

So, if you want to show someone you care, choose to sit next to them, but respect their personal space as you do so. Enter their personal space because you want to show you care, not because it overlaps the space you want as your own. If you must enter the space of someone you don’t know, find a way to be friendly. Introduce yourself. Shake their hand. Do something to show you care about them as a person.

Though it may seem so simple, choosing to sit next to someone can be a very powerful thing. It assures the person that someone cares for them.