Look up and smile

I was walking my dog around the park by my house. Other people were doing the same- it was a nice day after all. I noticed that when people on the path going the opposite direction passed me, no one looked up, no one smiled. They kept to the tasks at hand – their walk and their dog. They seemed so serious.

Although, in all honesty, I found myself hesitant to look up and smile. There was an uneasiness to make human contact – to look up and smile. Why is that?. In my generational presentations I reference what sociologists call the "depersonalization of society". Take our neighbors as an example. My parents, and especially my grandparents, knew the first and last name of everyone on their block. When I ask members of the audience how many of them knew the first and last name of their neighbors, hardly any hands go.

I remember when the sniper attacks were occuring in Washington D.C. about six years ago. No one knew at that time who was randomly picking human beings off of parking lots and gas stations. The newscasts in Denver suggested that it could be someone as simple as your neighbor – "details at ten!".

Isn't true that we are scared of those we don't know? It seems we hardly know our own neighbors- and have become apprehensive of "the other".  We are a fearful society. Fearful of so many people and those who are unfamiliar to us. I find it rather sad.

So, I want to start a revolution to counter the depersonalization of society. I want to see if we might be able to reverse the process and become more like the social animals we are intended to be. Next time you walk by another human being, or find yourself in a room full of people you don't know, simply look up and smile. The next time I walk my dog, I am going to be very intentional about looking up and smiling at everyone I pass. Maybe it will catch on like a yawn, causing others to look up and smile with people they don't know. Take the initiative. Let's see what happens

Posted in Attitude, Friendliness
One comment on “Look up and smile
  1. Kim says:

    Here’s a smile back atcha – Funny, I was determined at work today to say hello to the serious people in the hallway- just in spite of the downcast eyes – it does take a little ( very little) effort.

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Jeff Vankooten is a speaker and author focusing on the power of resilience to effectively engage the challenges of change. He helps leaders, businesses, and organizations develop the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
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