In her “Pure Synchrony” blog, business coach and go-giver extraordinaire Dixie Gillaspie offers this personal story as an illustration of The Go-Giver’s Law of Authenticity:
When I was very young and very naïve I had a little game I played called, “What will it take to make you smile?” I smiled at everyone I met, and sometimes that was all it took. Sometimes it took a little conversation, sometimes it took more than one encounter. But I was out to prove I could make anybody smile.
In my early twenties I worked at an accounting office in Lawrence, Kansas. The partners all knew about my little game, and they told me they knew one client that I could never win against — he would never smile for me or anyone else. This client picked up his accounting every month but he never came in: he just pulled up out front and honked, and you had to walk his reports out to his van. He never joked, he never chatted, he never even cracked a smile.
I said, “Wanna bet?”
For months I walked out to the van, accounting reports in hand. And for months Dr. B refused to smile. Dr. B was a vet who often had his dogs in the van with him, and I thought he might warm up if I let him know how much I shared his love of animals. He thawed a little when he saw that his dogs liked me—but he didn’t smile.
From July to November I played my game, losing to his straight face every month but never giving up. Then came December.
For an accounting firm, December is the brink of craziness. Between month-end accounting, year-end accounting and gearing up for the impending tax season, holiday parties are an afterthought at best. So I hadn’t even noticed that Dr. B’s accounting was sitting on the shelf. And I certainly wasn’t prepared to look up from my desk and see him standing in the doorway, leaning heavily on a cane with one hand and holding a holiday tin in the other.
He limped slowly to my desk and held out the tin. He said he wanted me to know how much my cheerfulness meant, especially that last summer when his gout was the worst and he hurt all the time and was embarrassed to try to walk because it was so hard. And he said the chocolates weren’t much, but he hoped I had a Merry Christmas.
Little did he know that the true gift he gave me that Christmas was validation — because he was smiling!
There’s more, and it’s worth it to go read the full post on Dixie’s blog. She closes by underlining the point of the story: The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.