The Importance of Feeling Important
by Terry L. Sumerlin
About twenty years ago, when our married daughters were in elementary school, they had a bicycle accident. Jo Ellen, our oldest, lost control of her bike and ran into her sister, Amanda, who was standing right in her path. Suddenly the front fender of the bike slid rather abruptly between Amanda’s fingers, and left a sizable gash that required several stitches.
The thing I remember most about the incident took place after we returned from the doctor. Amanda stood in our den, held up her bandaged fingers and, with absolute innocence and candor, declared, “Now I finally have something important to talk about!”
What a commentary on people – young and old. We all want to feel important and to have something important to tell others. As children, we couldn’t wait to tell others how we got our bruise, our cut or our broken bone. As adults we’re sometimes the same with illnesses and surgeries. They make us feel special. They become badges of honor. We act somewhat like a friend I had who broke his neck and, though he healed, subsequently referenced everything to before or after his accident. We, too, are prone to “hang on to” such personally important events. We need to feel important.
The various ways in which this need is met are rather significant. In fact, knowing how a person gets that feeling of importance tells us a great deal about the person. I heard about a mother who, at a Little League ballpark, told her son, “I do everything else for YOU. You’re going to play baseball for ME.” In this case, her sense of importance was wrapped up in her child. It makes you wonder how she will fill the void when the child grows up.
Other illustrations could be given, but the point remains the same. In addition to the obvious point regarding man’s need to feel important, there are two additional observations to be made. (1) The greatest difference in successful and unsuccessful people, those who have things figured out and those who never “get it,” is in how they get their feeling of importance. (2) Successful people are usually those who satisfy the other person’s need to feel important.
The second of these observations came to mind recently, when Sherry came home from the doctor. We recently changed doctors and started going to a gentleman who, along with his family, has been coming to J.B.’s Barber Shop for many years. Though the switch was solely on my judgment (and I kind of stuck my neck out), Sherry was tremendously impressed following her routine visit. In fact, she couldn’t stop talking about the experience. She talked about how he asked her this and that, and checked for this and that. He ran such and such a test. He was very thorough.
As she talked non-stop, one thing came to my mind. In her entire adult life, he is probably the very first doctor who ever REALLY made her feel important, and like her health (which is very good) was job #1 with him and his staff.
She was tremendously impressed! Not once did she mentioned, though, how impressed she was with where he studied medicine, how long he had been in practice, how his office was decorated or how conveniently located it is – all of which is impressive. All such paled in significance when compared to the fact that he made her feel special.
BARBER-OSOPHY: In business, and all relationships, nothing matters more than making the other person feel important.
Copyright 2004, Sumerlin Enterprises.
Terry L. Sumerlin, owner of J.B.'s Barber Shop in San Antonio, Texas, is known as "The Barber-osopher," and appears nationally as a humorist and motivational speaker.
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