“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

“How am I doing?” John Ellerman asked, seeming to need my approval at this point in our meeting. My chair was positioned so I could look past John – out over Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive with the water and sand beach on one side and the expensive apartments and offices rising on the other.

John had made me feel important in our conversations leading up to that meeting and he was continuing to boost my confidence now. The plan he had presented made me feel good, even proud that I had chosen to meet with him.

It was comforting to know my wife and young children would be taken care of if something dreadful happen to me. I also thought about how proud my father would be of my concern for my family.

“Fine … just fine!” I assured John after my pause.

“What parts do you like the most? Is there anything you are not sure of?” he asked.

important-picnic“I like the security my family would have,” I replied. “It’s a large policy, more than I thought I could afford, but I understand how the increasing cash value will help pay premiums and that we can borrow on its value, if we need it someday.”

He nodded his head in agreement, closing with, “Good, you should talk to your wife over the weekend. The paper work will be ready by Monday, so you can stop by to sign everything. Someone will call to get some health info, and, oh, bring your checkbook.”

On the drive home, I wondered why I had agreed to such a large policy. What would I tell my wife? I decided that I would just tell her all the things John had told me. I would tell her about the benefits that made this a wise choice. I would tell her how good we would feel, knowing that we had made this big decision.

John had presented the benefits for my family, not just the features of his insurance policy. We had talked about how Joyce would have fewer financial worries and how the children could have money for college. Should nothing happen, there would be money in the policy for us to use someday.

It was simple, but then so many of the best choices are simple.

“How am I doing?” was not John’s way of asking me to critique his sales pitch. He had delivered his message too many times to need my approval, besides, he was good at his craft. The casual question was John’s way of advancing the relationship, of getting my agreement with a simple open-ended query. He asked only for my opinion, not my decision. He made us partners.

I am thankful for all the “John Ellermans” I have met over the years. Each taught me something valuable while making me feel important.

Tell me about someone who has made you feel important. Did you want to continue in that relationship? I bet so.

Do you ask for opinions or decisions? Opinions are relational and the other, the decisions, are transactional. Why is that difference important?

As always, the conversation starts here.

“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran