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Published:August 28th, 2007 15:01 EST

A Funny Thing Happened While in Love

By Terry Sumerlin (Mentor/Columnist)

Our youngest daughter, Amanda, and I had just finished a wonderful lunch of Mexican food. She then dropped me off at Dallas Love Field for my return flight to San Antonio, and she returned to work at the Myerson Symphony Center. I had several hours on my hands before departure.

As usual, I decided to check out the bookstore. While scanning the titles in one corner I overheard a lady who was seeking information from a gentleman in the opposite corner. "Is this a bookstore?" she asked. He assured her it was. In the process he cleared up something for me.

What if it`s not a bookstore and I`ve wandered into Victoria`s Secret by mistake?

After she left and was out of earshot I asked the fellow if she had indeed asked him what I thought she had. He confirmed that she had. He added that he might have taken offense to her question since he is vice president of the company, in charge of book sales. "Something must be wrong with our manner of presentation," he said, "if she can`t tell we`re selling books in here." We then shared a laugh and chatted a moment as he responded to questions regarding book sales in airports.

Back to the lady (and in her defense), not everyone observes the same things or draws the same conclusions from what they (don`t) notice. Also, we`ve all asked our share of ridiculous questions. I don`t even have to be travel weary to do so. That said, the incident is still an amusing glimpse of human nature. People really are funny!

Something that had me primed to find this especially amusing was that it perfectly illustrated what I had just told a group a few hours earlier. While speaking in Fort Worth that morning to a joint regional conference for Senior Field Representatives of the U.S Census Bureau, I had stressed the importance of a sense of humor in team-building and leadership. I pointed out that humor is all around us & that life and people are funny. And, that a sense of humor tends to add to our credibility as leaders. Yet, the only way we notice the funny side of life (and by noticing develop a keen sense of humor)is by changing a self-absorbed, self-important attitude into an open, caring one. In other words, it helps to lighten up instead of taking ourselves so seriously. 

In the process of finding life`s lighter side, as leaders, we should constantly seek opportunities to share this side of life with our team members. As illustrated with the VP in the bookstore, the human relations benefits can be powerful. 

When I first noticed the gentleman he was kneeling on the floor, heavily perspiring in a small area while checking his book inventory. He didn`t appear to be having great time. After we shared a laugh and chatted a bit, a new type of atmosphere was created for both of us. When I left he had a smile on his face, while bidding me a very pleasant day. I, too, wore a smile as I went on my way, feeling a bit less travel weary. 

BARBER-OSOPHY: To improve the quality of your own life, use humor to improve the lives of others.