Someone posed a challenge to me about a week ago when in a heated debate over how effective first reactions people would have when simply walking past them on the street or down a grocery store aisle. This particular debate got started when this gentleman was defending the general citizenry in how they at times re-act when someone enters their “space”, be it on the street, in a store, or even in a professional environment. He claims the reason people are more guarded in their environments is because it’s you that’s entering their space. He went on to say that whenever people are entering our personal circles of say three feet, they are as well on the defense simply because our space is foreign to them, and are likely expecting to be regarded similarly due to the way they perceive intruders in their realms. I must say it’s an interesting concept in how the general public acts and reacts to first encounters. It’s almost like, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” I’ve known for years about the learned behavior of action/reaction in first contacts with others, but this new twist of his has caused me to consider the alternatives as well as the outcomes of handling chance encounters with others.
His challenge was, “Whenever you walk past a stranger or meet someone for the first time, simply smile and look them straight in the eyes while greeting them.” When he first said it, I thought how strange it would be considered of me to be walking down the street and smiling at passerby’s, making eye contact, and saying “hi”. Hmmm, I would have to think about the possible outcomes of conducting myself in such a manner. I couldn’t help but consider people thinking me a bit weird or believe me having some sort of grand hidden agenda. He said he’s started doing it some months ago and found that people really do appreciate personal acknowledgments and normally respond similarly. He noticed that people working in the service sectors treat him in a more positive manner and seem to want to go out of their way to help him. I’m certainly going to consider a trial run, but I’ll have to be a little more subdued in the smiling and direct eye contact. I couldn’t help remembering that most dogs don’t like being stared at and become a bit nervous and sometimes aggressive. I’ll have to remember not to smile and make extended eye contact with dogs belonging to strangers. One of my relatives had the most delightful lap dog who was always the most happy and loving until one started making long term eye contact with him. He’d become nervous and start barking at the person staring at him. I personally find people who are overly cheerful as well as pushy to be those of the super-sales force who’ve been trained to get you won over as their new friend who’s going to sell you just about anything in the store. I bolt whenever around people like that. I consider those tactics about as angular as a barrel full of fish hooks.
Ok, I’m going to do a “partial” trial run. I’m going to smile at every stranger I encounter and see where that takes me, and if it shows promise, I’ll start making direct eye contact. I will have to keep reminding myself, “Enter smiling.”, Enter smiling.” and more “Enter smiling”, “But don’t lick your lips!”