Why is it that the only things on TV right now are movies with lots of guns, serious lawyer shows and updates on Obama's cabinet? Truly. What happened to a good Seinfeld sitcom? Does no one laugh anymore? Have I been gone that long? I'm just wondering.
So you may recall my comments on the fact that Brazilians (and probably the world at large) think that we Americans are cold-hearted snobs, uninterested in others and reserved in showing affection. Many think we maintain a strictly no-touch policy, even among family. (Once a seven-year-old asked me if I sleep in the same bedroom as my husband. Ahem.)
I recently read an article (Reader's Digest? Sky Magazine? Can't remember) about a man who resolved to say "hello" to EVERYONE he met. I liked it. And I like doing it.
Hellos open doors. Today I chatted with three teenagers about Twilight and we discussed Edward's point of view. I met a lady whose daughter is my age and I heard all about her vacation to Costa Rica. She promised to look me up if she's ever in Brazil. Chatted with the hotel maintenance guy and cleaning crew. And the guy at National City - Chris, I should say - had me (and Jellybean) in stitches.
Everyone I greeted said hello back. Everyone smiled. Absolutely everybody I encountered seemed most eager for conversation and friend-making. This is cold-hearted America? I beg to differ.
The hello thing seemed too easy, so I decided to take it one step farther. Brazilians excel at complimenting one another, so I resolved to add this character trait as well. Today I strove to voice admiration for as many people as possible. Not just cheap, pithy flattery, but things I generally appreciated. From a cute coat to a beautiful hairdo to the way a mom was playing with her toddler.
My observations surprised me. On one hand, I love looking for the good in people. Assuming the worst in others is hateful work, and it's almost a relief to remember that everyone has feelings. I felt like the feel-good fairy, spreading self esteem and happiness all around. It's a powerful feeling, knowing that with just a few words you can make someone's day.
However, I was surprised with the reactions I received. No none was offended or creeped out (I think ...) - but people were embarrassed.
For example - I told our hotel host that she was just beautiful (she is), and while she was obviously pleased and surprised, she also ran away as quickly as possible.
It is tragic that we find it difficult to hear praise. That's why comments on blogs are so fab - you get a boost without having anyone KNOW it's a boost. You can gloat over each one without putting on a show of modesty. But when someone compliments you to your face - we either self-depracate or hide. Or both.
Why is that? Why is it socially required to duck your head and protest when someone admires you or something you've done? We all know it's a rule. WHY?
So here's a challenge, bloggy people. Two, actually.
1) Try the hello thing. I'm not the first to try this social experiment, and I hope I'm not the last. Oh, and smile with your teeth - it makes a difference.
2) Next time you receive a good word, simply say, "thank you!" That's it. No, that's it. STOP MAKING EXCUSES, JUST SAY THANK YOU!