I was having a relatively good day when my boss snapped at me. "You're driving me crazy," he said. "What is your problem?"
My problem was trying to solve problems with limited resources.
My problem was that I had been tasked with working with some employees and moving them in one direction without being told that they were working with another department that was moving them in a different direction.
My problem was that my job was "going to change" but without specifics or a plan, so I was drifting aimlessly.
And now my problem was that my boss was snapping at me when I was trying to figure it all out.
We were so close to our vacation that I couldn't do what I wanted to do, which was pack up and go home. Instead, I went to my desk and stared at my computer, keeping my eyes wide in an effort not to tear up because smart, professional women do not cry at their desks just because their feelings are hurt.
It takes so little time to be kind. Have you noticed? When I used to go through a tollboth every day I would speak with the attendant when handing her my money: "Have a good day!" She always looked startled that I would take the time to speak with her, let alone say something nice.
It took no time.
It takes no time to smile at a stranger. It takes no time to issue a compliment. It takes zero moments to say "I hope you have a great day!"
Maybe there's no visible payoff. But maybe you're changing the tone of someone's day by using a microsecond to be kind and reach out in a tiny, positive way -- and maybe that kindness could ripple across time and space into other people's days in big and small ways.
You never know.
It would have taken my boss the same amount of time to say, "I don't have the time to discuss this with you right now. Can we meet later?" as it did for him to say "You're driving me crazy. What is your problem?"
But maybe, possibly, given the gift of hindsight, I'm actually glad that he was unkind in that moment because he gave me a view into the kind of person that I do not want to be. I am going to make much more of an effort not to be that guy.
After all, it takes no time... but it makes a world of difference.