She literally jumped. Like I’d done something so unexpected, so surprising, and so completely foreign. Who knew a simple, ‘hey, good morning!’ could scare the bejesus out of someone?
But the truth is, saying ‘hi’ and not staring straight ahead when encountering another human being, has become unexpected. I don’t know about you but I find that pretty gosh-darn sad.
I recently started running again. In-between CrossFit and feeding the mouths of farm animals and screaming children. Hitting the Metroparks just feels so refreshing. Unlike almost everyone I encounter, I don’t wear a headset. The sound of birds and my own thoughts just makes me feel more connected with everything around me.
I am aware of little sounds. Maybe a deer breaking a branch in the forest next to me, or a man coming out of the woods to kidnap me. Either way, I listen and hear things that I would not had my ears been crammed with buds and the beats of Vampire Weekend.
So I have to ask, are you listening? Not just hearing the noise of what’s going on around you but actually listening.
When I think about how little effort and time it takes to make a BIG impact, I have to challenge myself and you to make a difference. Here are a couple ways I think you can break the chain of disconnect.
Elevator Speech: It’s something we talk about in marketing. Because the ride is SO short, you have to think about how you would get your message across in less than five minutes. But the point is, it’s an elevator ride. Do you really need to look at your phone the whole time or can you acknowledge the person standing within breathing distance?
Walkabout: Ever passed someone on the sidewalk and not said a word? Like there’s no one else and you see them coming but you look at your shoes instead when they pass like you’re deep in thought. Howz about you lift up your chin and smile? If words aren’t your thing just remind them that we are all human with a pearly white grin.
The Waiting Room: My three kids are typically crawling on the floor and cramming raisins in the seats when I’m at the dentist office. But I find that making eye contact and commenting on the People Magazine that someone is reading keeps everyone happy while you’re sitting there (making a super loud mess). Not sure where to start? Everyone hates the Kardashians so just throw one of them under the bus and (BOOM!) instant friend.
Conference Call Early Cat: The meeting kicks off in three minutes but here you and what’s-that-dude’s-name are sitting 2.5 feet across a lacquered table. But you’re both super special so no eye contact necessary, right? Wrong! What the heck can you possibly accomplish in such a short time that outweighs getting to know another non-robot on your team?
Grocery Lineage: Time literally stands more than still when the littles and I are in the check out line. It’s like Marty McFly has permanently checked out. But I’ve realized that just because I’m in a hurry—and trying to prevent my kids from eating checkout candy—doesn’t mean that anyone else is. People love when you comment on a purchase and ask if it’s good. Wine, some sort of frozen delicacy or just a “what are you making tonight” is an easy start. Because we all like to eat, don’t we?
Bottom line, we have become painfully comfortable with being disconnected. Sure we post pics and “like” what we see but in the end does that really count as interacting? Nope. So my challenge for you is to look up. Make eye contact. Say a sentence—just one!—to a person two feet away from you. Because at the end of the day we aren’t robots, so let’s be Linda Hamilton in a world full of checked out terminators.