“Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”

How often have you heard this from someone handing you a business card? How often have you said it to someone to whom you’ve just handed a business card? I was a little unprepared for what came next during one of these mundane transactions a few days ago.

“Well, what could you do for me?”

The question came from a Rhodes student named Eric Stockhausen. We had just met for the first time; he graciously agreed to let me mention him by name in this article. I had just emceed a presentation by Jason Womack, my favorite thinker on workplace performance, and I was meeting people and shaking hands afterward.

Even though I was thinking about how I could connect with people and help them connect with one another, I have to confess that Eric’s response to my offer put me back on my heels a bit. I’ve always hated saying “let me know what I can do for you” at or near the end of a conversation because it sounds insincere (I assure you, it isn’t) and because I do genuinely want to find ways to improve the lives of the people I meet. I hadn’t really thought of a better way to convey that, but Erics question really made me think: what can I do for people?

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