The Military Taught Me the Power of Positive, Singular Interactions


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Businesses, governments, and people interact and build relationships that empower, inspire, strengthen and sustain. The vast majority of our daily interactions with people, social media, businesses, government, and other organizations are characterized by short, immediate, and seemingly inconsequential interactions.  Conversations with teachers, repair people, grocery clerks, store attendants, and responses on social media are all important, but usually singular, daily interactions.  The vast majority of people either disregard or do not understand the importance of these singular interactions. These singular interactions clearly define the people we are and the type of person we aspire to become – they are vitally important to do well.


The military really taught me the importance of singular interactions and how they define your character. When I was a in Iraq, I was just coming out of the dining facility (chow hall) with breakfast after an all-night planning and re-planning effort to try and halt some of the, then new, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks.  I was distraught, dead tired, frustrated, hungry, and ready to rest for a few minutes.  I ran into a young Marine that had just driven for hours from southern Iraq with some prisoners for interrogation.  The Marine passed off his prisoners and then had to guard his vehicle.  Without him saying anything, I asked if he had eaten anything.  He said “No,” and with no more words between us, I gave him my breakfast, and headed back to another 18 hours of work.  I never saw the Marine again.  In the military, events like this are common, unspoken, and far from unusual.  In the military, every interaction that you have with any person is an opportunity to help another person, make them better, and demonstrate yourself as a leader.


In our daily lives, we need to better act, better understand, and better appreciate how we can make singular interactions better for others.


The Power of Polite, Positive, & Civil Conversation.

Polite conversation is the foundation of a positive interaction with everyone and any person.  Today, no matter what you do, everyone is rushed, overburdened, tired, and often at wit’s end to get everything done.  These circumstances are why polite manners and positive conversation are vital, because it sets people at ease and makes even stressful conversations easier.  Finally, manners, polite conversation, please and thank you show appreciation for the hard work and effort of others.


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Are People Better Off After Reading Your Social Media?

Social media is another area where we can be polite in person and absolutely scathing in our digital interactions. Instead, adopt a rule that if people just read one (1) social media interaction from you in a year, what would it say about you? Positive and productive interactions with people we do not know on Social Media are a way to take politeness, civility, and personal leadership into the digital space. I try to make every post or comment I have on Social Media a positive interaction. Even if someone never reads anything I post again, then will have received a tip, comment or article that will make them better. A positive digital interaction is a better legacy than emoji fireballs and all caps.

Did You Help Someone at Work? 

Helping others be successful at their jobs is another idea that few people take the time to do. Holding the door for someone, helping set up a meeting room, stapling copies, pointing out a typo before it gets to the boss are all simple, meaningful, short, and positive interactions that we can take at work. It only takes a minute, a smile, and direct effort to make someone’s day at work.


Did You Say Hi to Everyone Today?

Saying hello, a smile, and a “good day” are easy ways to make friends, be polite, and cement an interaction. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest where not saying hi to everyone would get you a phone call to your father that night. Next time, you walk around the neighborhood, go to a child’s sporting event or cut the grass, say Hi to everyone.

On my final rotation in Bosnia, I was helping some soldiers that were not in my unit load some trucks as I waited to brief a senior officer. As I worked, I overheard an angry senior officer exclaim, “Were in the X%^$ is that SF Captain?”  The angry officer’s Sergeant Major, the senior sergeant in the unit, stated even louder and with a deadpan that could have won an Academy Award, “he volunteered to help the motor pool load some trucks – we could use more officers that work around here.”  And, with glares all around, I pushed my last box on the truck and went to speak to the senior officer. 


The military and my civilian career taught me the power of positive, singular interactions are often the defining characteristic of all your relationships.


Share Your Stories How Someone Treated You Well!


Related Information:

  1. Military Leadership Skills During Times of Chaotic Change
  2. How to Join a New Organization
  3. Leadership Humility: A Skill Critical to Becoming and Remaining a Great Leader


About the Author: Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 280 articles in over 190 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics.  Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better.  Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University.  Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.  Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and