The weird habit that all successful people share

A hypothetical situation that makes a much bigger lesson easier to understand

The start of a new year is an obvious time to consider where you are in life and what you want to achieve in the future.

Anyone looking for a promotion or career advancement will likely begin by reflecting on their success so far and wondering what they can do to improve their chances.

One question posed on Quora, answered by founder and CEO of the Martin Organization Rod D. Martin, may help: "What are some tips for becoming successful?"

Martin posed a hypothetical situation that makes a much bigger lesson easier to understand.

"You would be surprised how many people don't accept a breath mint when it's offered to them," he wrote. "Maybe you've refused one yourself. You shouldn't have.

"If someone offers you a breath mint, the person might just be being polite. If so, you may not want a mint just then, but it's rarely polite or kind to turn down someone's offered generosity.

"But more likely, if they offered you a mint, you needed it. You just didn't realise it. It's amazing how much offense you can give without knowing it."

Martin says that the first lesson of “breath mints” is that you should "strive to pick up on the subtleties of life".

"People tell you things you need to know all the time: what it will take to close the sale, that they're agitated, that they're not feeling well, that you're upsetting them in some way, that they're crazy about you, all sorts of things."

He notes that experts reiterate time and time again that 93 per cent of communication is nonverbal. So if you missed the breath mint hint, which was spoken, how do you think you did on the other 93 per cent of what was "said"?

"The person who refused the breath mint thought to himself: 'I don't need one.' He didn't think: 'What if someone else needs me to have one?'" Martin explains.

"There's a world of difference in those two statements. The first isn't really an assessment of need: It's a statement of want, or rather the lack thereof. It's a personal preference: 'Right now, I'm not in the mood for a breath mint.'

"The second is a statement of concern for the other person: 'OK, I don't necessarily want a breath mint, but maybe I'm offending this person.'

"The breath mint rule isn't about breath mints: It's about abandoning the self-absorption of childhood and actively thinking of the needs of others, in all things," Martin concludes. "Successful people take the breath mint. They think about the needs of others. They seek out the information being conveyed without words."

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