by Kerry C. O’Hallaron
I have the privilege of teaching interpersonal skills to very enthusiastic students. It is exceptionally rewarding.
Whether in my book or in a lesson, I often start out a subject with a relevant personal anecdote, one which illustrates in real life the “people skills” principle I’m about to discuss with them.
In my humble opinion, one of the top five most important people skills – some would argue it is the most important – is the effective use of a smile. This anecdote about someone close to me who teaches that principle far more effectively than I could.
I hope you enjoy it!
Legend has it that Connie was born with a smile on her face.
I wasn’t there at the time, so I don’t know that for sure. I only knew her for the last 61 of her 94 years. So let me share what I do know.
She was born in the Midwest United States, of hard-working middle-class parents not far removed from European immigrants. She had a happy childhood. In the middle of World War II, as a young adult, she married Don. They were together nearly sixty years – by all accounts a very happy union.
Connie, along with Don, raised six children. Somehow, she managed to keep smiling through it all.
In the early 1970’s, as the children were progressing through their education, she entered the work force – during a time when many women could only get jobs as secretaries. Being a secretary was not for Connie. Her exceptional work ethic and winning smile earned her the job of city clerk in her home town. She worked there until retirement, at which point she and her captivating smile were featured in the local newspaper for being a one-of-a-kind woman.
She loved retirement, enjoying her relationships with Don, her children and grandchildren, and old friends. She lived the good life until the late 1990’s, when tragedy struck in the form of a massive stroke. Not one to give up easily, Connie survived the stroke well – except that it became difficult to speak what she was thinking. She spoke like a baby – able to get a message across without being articulate – even though her thoughts were clear.
She’d always communicated with a smile and a friendly word. Now she just had the smile. If that bothered her, you’d never know it. Whenever someone came to visit her, her eyes lit up and her smile warmed the room. The smile projected a clear message: “Hi. I’m really glad to see you. I’m glad you are in my life. I’m glad you are here.” Her speech was challenged, but not her communication.
When Don died in 2004, she moved to a nice senior living facility, where her smile alone was enough to captivate residents and staff alike. She had constant visitors, in spite of the speech challenge. Connie made life good.
I got to spend some time with her just a week before her death in 2014. We both seemed to know her time was coming – but she refused to give up that radiant smile even then. As she departed this world, she left behind a gift to everyone who knew her – now including you. She entrusted that wonderful, powerful smile to each of us, asking us to both keep it and share it with others, and make the world a little brighter place in the process.
(Rest in Peace Connie O’Hallaron, a/k/a Mom, 1920-2014.)
Kerry O’Hallaron is an author, speaker, trainer, and successful business executive. His latest book is People Skills 101-tm: How to Have More Friends, Fewer Conflicts and Better Relationships. In its recent launch, it catapulted to #1 in the Self Development category. It’s been called a life-changing twist on Dale Carnegie’s timeless classic. You can buy it today in Kindle and paperback versions on Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/People-Skills-101-Conflicts-Relationships-ebook/dp/B07KXDBMX8