Leaving people better than you found them.

Leaving People Better Than You Found Them


I was always taught that if you borrowed something from someone, then you returned it in the same or better condition than when you took it.

What if we did the same thing with people?

Every time we interact with someone, we are borrowing their time and energy. What if we left them in the same or better shape than when we approached them?

We all know those people who can just suck the oxygen out of your personal space.  They just tire you out.  Worse yet, there are those who can suck the energy out of you- they have been coined “emotional vampires”.  If you ever met one, you know exactly what I am talking about.

What if each of us did our very best to leave everyone better than we found them?  Maya Angelou said that people will not remember what you said or what you did but they will always remember how you made them feel.

What if we made everyone we came in contact with feel better? How can we accomplish that? What would that look like?

What if we left people better than we found them? Click To Tweet

Courtesy, Civility, and Manners

We can start with the basics- say hello and goodbye, please and thank you, hold open doors, waiting our turn, and general politeness.  We can control our attitude and not take it out on random people.  We can treat others the way we would like to be treated.

It sounds elementary, and indeed these are most of the social skills we are taught at a young age, but sometimes it seems as if these very things become “uncool” as we age.  There are many theories on why this has become this way.  The fact that our society has become more casual, or the age of the selfie, or the proliferation of “reality shows” that model bad behavior as if it were something to strive for.  Whatever the reasons, it is easy enough to change it.  As individuals, we can decide to change it.  We have the power, it doesn’t take a group it just takes one.

We can do it, even if everyone else is not.

Being Present

It is easy to get distracted in a fast-paced world.  I know that I am guilty of this.  I am in line, paying for my groceries and I am so focused on what I need to do when I leave the grocery store, I mumble an answer to the clerk that barely resembles a sentence.  I have to work on just focusing on who I am working with so that I can adequately practice courtesy, manners, and civility.

Technology can also be a distraction.  We’ve all been at a restaurant where everyone at a table is on their phone communicating with someone but not the ones they’re with.

Giving our individual attention to the people in front of us will not only give them a sense of importance but will most likely give us a sense of connection as well.

Acknowledging the Positive

Many people are quick to point out the deficits in every situation.  If we don’t like the service we receive, if we feel we’ve been wronged in rush hour traffic, if something isn’t up to our expectations, people get vocal or become active Yelpers.  

What if we showed our appreciation and thankfulness when something met or exceeded our expectations?  A sincere “Thank You” can go along way.  Most people toil day in and day out to do the best at their jobs, rarely getting noticed.  It doesn’t take that much time or energy to let people know that their hard work has been recognized.


Sometimes when things aren’t going so well, it is just best to be patient.  Everyone makes mistakes and most people are quick to remedy it.  The person we are dealing with may be new to what they are doing, not feeling well, or dealing with some heavy personal issues and are doing their best to carry on.  Giving them the opportunity to make it right could be the small respite in their day.  It is also the fair thing to do, after all, no one makes a mistake on purpose.

I know that I always feel bad if I’ve messed something up and just want the opportunity to fix it.  Most people do.

Leave Them with Goodwill and Intent

It is almost too simple to tell people to have a good day, and mean it.  If we wished goodwill on everyone who came across our path and they did the same, it could be revolutionary.

If everyone encountered each other with the intention to bless them that day, it could change the course of their day or even our own.  Scientific experiments have proven just that.  We have the power to make the difference.  

The Challenge

What if we challenged ourselves to focus on leaving people as good or better than we found them?  That is an excellent social experiment!  I plan on focusing on this challenge for a month and see what I can learn from it.  I will report back.

Photo credit: Horia Berca

Are you up for the challenge? Is there anyone here who would like to join in? If you want to report what you’ve learned from this I want to hear from you. Please email me and let me know.


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