Before we get started with today’s post: yes, I’m an extrovert :). I can also be a little extra. And lastly, in the past 15 years, I’ve never met a stranger 🙂
Have you seen the famous quote by Maya Angelou:
People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But, people will never forget how you made them feel.
Recognizing that this is controversial to some who study psychology. Because technically you can’t make anyone feel a certain way. This quote still rings true in my opinion. While we can’t guarantee someone will understand or see our intentions; we can do our best to express intent. It would be a rare person who can let every interaction, no matter how extreme, just roll of their back. Plus, I honestly don’t know how healthy that would be. Not to mention, being thoughtful and treating others with kindness can change another person’s entire day.
As we go into any situation, it is up to us to be respectful, kind and present. Regardless, if it be with a stranger or someone we know well. Yes, sometimes we may be in a massive rush. Perhaps we’ve got our own ‘stuff’ going on. But to truly stop and ‘see’ the other person and hold space, is the most noble thing you can do. Even if the interaction is fleeting, in line at a drive through, the exchange can be not just pleasant but deeply human.
When I first moved down to the southern part of the United States, this was a struggle for me. Having been ‘trained up’ to be overly results oriented and reduce any emotion to zero; it was difficult for me to understand why people would want me to even make eye contact. Let alone, slow down long enough to exchange pleasantries. Remember the post where I talked about the t-shirt that says, “I’m not angry, I’m from Philly”?
In a specific example, a now amazing and dear friend of mine would pass by my cubicle each morning. And she’d ask, “Are you doing okay?” Leave it to this northerner to take offense. Thinking she was implying I wasn’t okay or that something seemed amiss. It wasn’t until years later, we would laugh about this. Years of her pouring into our friendship, listening to me and even letting me borrow her own mom for advice. Now, this seems so hilarious to me, but also looking back, kind of sad!
It also makes me realize that many people are walking around in a broken place and don’t even realize it. It is safe to say that my extreme cold demeanor and less than pleasant resting face, reflected something going on internally.
Becoming more warm
With a need for more than one pair of sunglasses, and more months with less layers, life was simply better. Being outside is my preference, and being social outside is even better. The opportunities to do so were vast in this world of Carolina blue skies. During the first few years of being in the South, not only did I experience a massive amount of sunshine, but I also became warmer.
Some think that southerners aren’t genuine. Granted, I can only speak from my experience, which has shown me that if someone asks how you are doing, they truly do want to know. In some cases, it might be for gossip (haha), but in most cases, its out of real concern. Gradually realizing how freeing it was to open up, about the tough stuff, and the happy stuff too!
Celebrating with and comforting others is what this life is all about.
– An extrovert who has never met a stranger
The general concern for other’s well-being exists in almost every interaction here. With close friends of course the topics are deeper and more vulnerable. With cashiers and the public, it is likely with enough interactions you’ll get to know them!
Over time many strangers have become friends – sometimes the person sitting next to me in the airport. And other times the college student ringing up my groceries.
Say, do, feel
Going back to Maya Angelou’s quote, in my mind this means to walk around authentically. It doesn’t necessarily mean smiling at others 24/7 or playing ‘walking on sunshine’ endlessly through your mind. I do think simply being genuine and paying attention makes the world of difference. “Seeing” another person by hearing what isn’t obvious and responding thoughtfully. Being available for another to just sit and talk. Listening without comment. Celebrating along side another, or walking into chaos with them. Taking responsibility for our own behavior within the context of the situation. We might not always say or do the right thing, but being genuine and thoughtful goes a long way.