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Friday, August 16, 2013 - 3:43am

WORKING: Lasting Impressions

The way we interact with each other has a tremendous impact on the relationships we have with our colleagues, our superiors and the people we serve.

A piece on the Inc. website by Jeff Hagen illustrates how vital those interactions can be, via a chance meeting with actor Hugh Jackman:

I was cutting through Central Park on my way to meet a friend at his restaurant. As I exited the park I stopped for a second to decide if I had time to walk the rest of the way or I should take a cab.

A voice behind me said, "Lost?"

I turned and said, "I don't think so..." and then stopped. Holy crap. Wolverine was standing in front of me.

He smiled, tilted his head, and raised his eyebrows in a nonverbal, "Need any help?"

I told him I was deciding whether to get a cab. He asked where I was from (my southern accent gave me away), what business brought me to New York (my briefcase providing a clue), and if my family was along for the trip (he noticed my wedding ring). He could not have been nicer. I didn't even get a chance to squeeze in a, "Loved you in..." compliment.

Finally he said, "Oh wait, I'm going to make you late. Where are you going?" I told him.

"Oh, that place is great!" he said. "Let's get you a taxi." He took a couple steps out onto Central Park West and raised his arm and flagged a cab. He opened the back door, shook my hand, said, "Great talking to you, mate," closed the door behind me and waved as I drove away.

In three minutes, Hugh Jackman turned me into a fan for life--but he didn't sell me.

What was so special about what he did?

“Curiosity. That’s it,” says Brandon Smith, our regular commentator on workplace and career topics. “That’s the most valuable skill that we have. He just dug in and asked some questions.”

Smith says the simple act of asking questions and “digging in” a bit will make people feel like you’re interested in them, you care about what they’re doing, and you’re empathetic. And that will lead to greater loyalty and trust.

Brandon Smith teaches about leadership, communication, and workplace culture at Emory University's Goizueta Business School. More of his advice is on his blog and at While you’re there, ask him your workplace or career question. We might answer you in a future radio segment.