Several years ago I got a new office in a cupboard. I quietly fumed that the no window space (really a converted cupboard) was so different to the natural light, view of Orchard Road office I'd had to leave.
What I failed to realize was that my new space was the best office on site. You see it was close to the main entrance to the entire office, and as an early to work kind of a person I would be able to say hi, greet or otherwise acknowledge most of the staff as they came in - or later in the day as they left. I also had a small table and two chairs for meetings. And always on the table was a box of tissues
Everyone who worked at the office knew that if they wanted to talk about something emotional or otherwise sensitive, that my office was a safe place to go. During my sixteen years working for the firm, countless colleagues came into my office - some for career guidance, others to vent, some for the merely mundane administrative tasks they needed to complete, but every one I invited to sit and tell me how they were.
And they did, and I listened. Some were angry, others shed tears but whatever the emotion, when they left they left feeling better. No judgement, just a friendly caring ear.
And contrary to my expectation the tears brought us closer - men and women alike. The simple act of caring by listening.
It's been several years since that office and happily many of those people are still in regular contact. In the times I've been laid off, those people have been willing to share their network with me, in my darkest times they have been there to listen to me and return the gift of caring by listening.
Asking someone how they are, and caring enough to listen to their answer is one of the greatest gifts you can give. Who can you ask, today?