Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hello, you're fabulous

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!

Ready, break!


Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Great advice. I made a goal once that if I thought a nice thought about someone, I should share it. I'm not always great at it, but it feels good when I do (and I think the feeling is mutual).

Kristina P. said...

What a fun idea!

P.S. You are fabulous AND wonderful!

Lady of Perpetual Chaos said...

That's such a great idea to go out of your way to say hello to everyone. I do try to compliment people (it's easier with people I know) as often as possible, but find it very awkward when someone compliments me.

*MARY* said...

I never turn down a dare so I'm going to do this. It will be really easy for me because I hardly ever see people.

lizzy-loo said...

brasilians are good at the complimenting thing. i will take you up on your challenge. we could use a little positive thinking in my house right now. glad you are enjoying your time home.

Brooke said...

What a great post. I think I need to try the hello thing or the compliment thing. I have resolved to start saying thank you every time someone says something nice. I think I have surprised a few people by NOT acting embarrassed. Now I just need to stop excusing myself before people have the chance to notice stuff (ex. excuse the messy house. . . )

Anonymous said...


Great post. I am one for always saying hello to people. On the other hand I don't really compliment people so I am going to try that!

Brother Tario

btw...ur blog is fantabulus!!

Pezlady Jana said...

you are so awesome! I will totally take your challenge and do those things. I love your blog. It is so fun!

Annie Valentine said...

I am already in your circle of do-gooders, my friend.

And I NEVER run from a compliment. I usually respond with, "Really? What else?"

Becky said...

I so agree! Just say thanks and leave it at that. Otherwise you're negating the compliment and kind of insulting the giver.

Great post!

JustRandi said...

I love your challenge. And good for you for thinking about doing nice things. I think I'd just be all sitting next to the pool with a stack of novels if I were you right now.

Lara said...

1. My reader stopped picking up your feed. Weirdola...I'm glad to see you're back up and running! Yay!

2. I read that article. I was impressed by it, and thought I should try it. So now, because you're saying I should, I'm gonna have to buck up and do it. I'm really shy though, so I feel very uncomfy. Did you do what he did and even wave hello to all the other drivers on the road?

Rocketgirl said...

My mom whent to BYU and remembered everyone saying how friendly everyone was on campus, so one day she decided not to say howdy and see how many people greeted her - a big fat nada. So she learned that you can't depend on anyone else for pleasantness, but to make it herself. I on the other hand, am such a people whore, that I can't keep my mouth shut if I see another human. Check!

Erin said...

I read this yesterday, even though I didn't comment. But I thought about it all day. I loved this post. I have even written a post scheduled to post on Monday partially about this post. (I'm sorry if that didn't make any sense.)

You really are amazing!

Heidi Ashworth said...

My mother was so good at this and everybody knew her and loved her--at the grocery store, the bank, the post office--it was great!

Elizabeth said...

You mean I have to actually TALK TO PEOPLE??? But they're SCARY!!! Okay, okay, I know. I'll give it a shot. But I don't promise to say hello to EVERYONE right off the bat. Gotta warm up to it. (Yeah, I know, what's wrong with me lately?)

But today I had a lovely conversation with an older gentleman over the oranges, and when he told me I was just the kind of young lady he liked to see (tall, stands straight, pretty) I just said, "Why thank you!!"

Why am I totally fine if THEY talk to ME first??

Kathy P said...

Just stumbled across your blog... love it. Love your idea too. Definately going to do it... I would love to put something about this on my new blog --

Right in line with what you are doing!

Keep up the good work!