When I’m out in public I tend to be an extreme introvert. I rarely look at the people around me or look the cashier in the eye at the grocery store. It’s partly a function of the society we live in. People just don’t talk to others anymore. It’s the same in many neighborhoods. Neighbors don’t talk to each other or even know who lives right next door.
But the “everybody’s doing it” mindset shouldn’t become an excuse. I’ve been making a concerted effort lately to talk to strangers, ask how the cashier’s day is going before they get a chance to ask it during their scripted monologue, and wave to my neighbors when I see them outside. It gets noticed. Most people actually do want to talk and be talked to. They just fall prey to societal norms like everyone else.
We’ve gotten so used to only interacting online that we’ve forgotten how to do it in real life. Or we’re just too scared. We’re afraid that others will react negatively to our minor outpouring of humanity. I like to wave at drivers in my neighborhood but I’m always afraid they won’t wave back or they’ll think I’m weird or something. So I often just look at the ground and avoid the whole scenario. What a waste of an opportunity to be kind to someone.
These days it takes real effort and determination to engage other humans. How sad. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Avoidance just a self-perpetuating habit. We can break it by simply going against the grain and opening ourselves up to others. I’m not big on new year resolutions but I’m ready to use this new year to double my efforts to reach out to others and improve relationships. You can do the same.