All About You

All About You: See the best in others – and yourself


EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

“It never hurts to see the good in someone, they often act the better because of it.” – Nelson Mandela

You spill spaghetti sauce on your white shirt while eating dinner during a business trip. You excuse yourself and go to the restroom to remove the stain, but you can’t get it out. It’s a new, expensive shirt, so guaranteed it will bug you that it’s been marred with a stain, and that people will notice it. Because they will, no doubt about it.

When we meet new people, we often notice their “stains” rather than their overall positive qualities. “He talks too loud,” “She dresses sloppily,” “They were a standoffish group,” etc. I dare you to find a person or group that’s “perfect.” You can’t, because nobody’s perfect. And that has to do with our prejudices and cherished opinions, which vary from person to person.

I don’t like chocolate ice cream. So does that mean it’s bad? Of course not. When I can get it, my favorite ice cream flavor is eggnog, which my darling wife thinks is “nasty.” Is that true? To my wife, yes. But objectively, it’s just another flavor that some people like and some people don’t. The lesson for you and me is that most character traits other people display that we don’t like are as subjective as our ice cream flavor preference.

We often beat ourselves up mentally because of what we consider our flaws. By focusing on your positive traits (and those of others), the world becomes brighter. Yes, some people act mean – even evil. But they’re the exception. Most of us have good intentions and want to do our best. Here are three tips on how to see the best in others and yourself.

Have positive expectations

I’ve gotten talking gigs that I fretted over because I thought the audience wouldn’t like me. Sometimes it was because of the culture (i.e., Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, New Delhi and the Bronx in New York). Not anymore. Now I believe every audience will be receptive. The same thing goes for when I meet a person for the first time. I expect them to be friendly and open. So I strive to notice what I like about them. Sure, sometimes they don’t meet my expectations, but I believe that because I approach people positively, they respond better.

It’s easier to notice what you don’t like about someone than what you admire. I think that has to do with our innate survival mechanisms. That means you need to make a conscious effort to pay attention to the other person’s assets, or at least what you find positive about them, instead of what you don’t like. This isn’t a rose-colored glasses viewpoint. Everyone, including yourself, has something positive about their personality and what they contribute to society. Look for that.

Forgive and forget quickly

I’ve met thousands of people because of my profession. Likely you have, too. When someone says or does something I find offensive or inappropriate, I try to quickly overlook it and “move on.” Have you ever said something that – and you knew it as soon as you said it – bothered the person or group listening to you? Of course. Did you want them to quickly overlook what you said? No doubt! That’s another reason to barely notice other people’s missteps and move on.

Cut yourself a break

Don’t focus on your character flaws and mistakes. I hope you aren’t insulted by this, but you have flaws. I know I do. And being aware of them is crucial to acting wisely. Consider Socrates’ oft-quoted phrase, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” It still applies today. But I’d like to add, “To know thyself but not put your mistakes on the main stage is the beginning of enjoying life.” The same thing goes for the people you meet. Notice their positive attributes more than their flaws. Then they will “often act the better because of it.”

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps leaders inspire employees to care more about their safety and health so “nobody gets hurt.” He also has a long history of success getting safety leaders to increase their influence and make safety fun. For more than 35 years, Richard’s safety keynotes, training sessions, books and “Safety Stuff” e-zine have made a positive difference in the safety and health field. Learn more about how Richard can improve your employees’ safety performance at

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