The woman had paused at the booth in the exhibit hall at the management conference. She'd started chatting with a man who was at a modest booth. The surrounding booths were from large, well-established firms. You could tell that this guy's business was in its early stages.
A group of conference attendees was eavesdropping on the exchange, which involved the usual business pitch and questions, possibly because they were interested in what the guy was selling. As the woman started to leave, the man reached back into the both and retrieved a coffee mug with the name of his company.
He offered it to her.
She said, "Oh no. I've already got plenty of coffee mugs at home. I don't need another."
The man pointed out something unique about the coffee mug. It had some special feature or something.
The woman politely refused, thanked him, and walked on.
The man smiled, but his eyes were sad. It reminded me that one of the nicest things we can do for others, oddly enough, is to let them do something for us. The man at the booth probably wouldn't have minded if the woman had taken the mug home and given it to charity or tossed the darned thing in the trash. He wanted an acknowledgement that their conversation had been meaningful and that his gift had merit. The woman, who was quite kind, had taken a utilitarian view of the offer.
The man, however, saw it as much more.