Breaking patterns with kindness
Published 15 February 2019
When I started working at 3rd Space, it soon became evident that self-care would be an important component of managing the demands of my job. Some people meditate, others like to play sport or get professional coaching/debriefing but my type of relaxation is Thai foot massages. I discovered them many years ago while heavily pregnant with my second child. Feet aching and ‘cankles’ threatening to emerge, I came across a Thai Foot Spa and after five minutes of a therapist digging into my feet with a blunt stick, I knew it was going to be a long-term thing. Hey, it was a good type of pain!
Consequently, I have been regularly visiting a particularly wonderful foot spa in Fortitude Valley since joining 3rd Space. During my last visit, I watched a therapist kneel and perform a short blessing or acknowledgment to a little Buddha-like figure sitting next to the reclining couch that was about to be occupied by the next client. It got me thinking about rituals.
Today I was watching visitors in 3rd Space Café and the small rituals and patterned behavior they had. Some ate their food in a particular order or sat in the same spot at the same table that they always sit at; others told the same jokes they always tell.
A man with a vision impairment stood up at his table but didn’t move. The café was extremely busy and team members were distracted with service but eventually I realised that his standing was a sign that was normally responded to with someone offering to walk him towards the exit. I went over and offered to assist and he allowed me to walk him out of the area crowded with tables. Once on the straight and narrow pathway leading to the door, he disengaged and quietly waved me away.
Another gentleman who visits regularly arrived at midday with his usual greeting, which is highly effusive, warm, glowing and appreciative. He enters and leaves in the same theatrical and flamboyant way every day. Glorious good mornings, compliments about the radiant health and beauty of the team, the same food order asked for with the same impeccable manners, staying for the same length of time and then always more affirmations and appreciative gestures and comments prior to leaving. The constancy and predictability of how he behaves is something that I realised I appreciated very much.
As he was saying goodbye today, I told him he had exemplary manners and that his politeness and appreciation were something that meant a lot to the entire 3rd Space team. He kept talking at first, following his farewell ritual as if what I had said didn’t sink in and then he stopped suddenly and said, “Wait a minute. I think you just said something very important! What did you say?” I repeated myself and he quite literally basked in my compliment, arms flowing and gesturing, wide smiles and explanations that his mother had taught him to be polite.
I realised I had broken his ritual, his pattern – in a good way. I suspect he doesn’t get many compliments and I see that he very much deserves them. I am not a verbally effusive person when it comes to compliments, so it was rewarding for me to break my pattern too.
3rd Space CEO