Two Left Feet

© Naomi Karten, www.nkarten.com

(This article originally appeared in Perceptions and Realities newsletter.)

Personalized attention. That’s what this article is about. The two left feet in the title are my own, and personalized attention is something I’ve come to realize is important to me when those two left feet are struggling to figure out which is which.

But first I must digress. Almost everybody likes attention, even some of the people who claim they don’t. One of the reasons people like it is that they get so little of it. As a result, sometimes you can do no greater good than to give some attention to someone who’s not expecting it. And there are so many ways to do it, such as by listening attentively, offering a compliment, asking about activities of interest to the person, or occasionally calling or sending a note just to say “Hi, I was thinking of you.”

People like to know that others know they’re alive. In fact, giving personalized attention can often be more important than delivering a speedy solution. Sometimes, when people come to you with a problem, what they want even more than concrete help is simply to hear you agree that it really is a problem and they are right to be concerned.

One of the best ways to be an attention-giver is by acknowledging someone else’s existence when that person doesn’t even know you’re looking. That’s where my two left feet enter the picture — in aerobics classes. In case you’ve never partaken, aerobics classes entail an hour of energetic, high-intensity, fast-paced movements, in which your arms and legs flail in all directions to the sound of music that’s invariably too loud.

Doing that can be a challenge when you have a hard time following directions that require one foot to do one thing while the other foot does something else. The result is that when the aerobics instructor says to go this way, I go that way — and vice versa. And sometimes, as I attempt to follow her instructions, my feet get into an argument about which way each should go, and they both lose the argument!

But — and here’s where personalized attention comes in — every now and then, from across a crowded room, I hear the instructor say, “Nice job, Naomi” or “Naomi, good work.” At first, I was sure she was talking to some other Naomi. But no, she was looking directly at me. It was a nice feeling. I may have two left feet, but they’re not two anonymous left feet.

Do you know it took several classes before I realized that she similarly acknowledges everyone in the class? This is an instructor who is astute enough to realize the value of personalized attention. And knowing that she is going to deliver this little zing of attention doesn’t diminish how good it feels every single time.

It doesn’t even matter if I’m not actually doing good work when she makes the comment. Just the contrary. Once, near the end of a longer-than-usual class, I was running out of energy, and my two left feet had begun to do battle with each other. That’s when I heard her say, “Nice work, Naomi.” I knew I was in klutz mode at the moment, but she gave me just the boost I needed. My two left feet and I suddenly felt energized, and we completed the class in rare form.

In this world, if we are not left together, we are left alone. Who will you give personalized attention to today?

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