I was walking across the street in New York City at 9am, and a gentleman who was walking by, smiled, looked me in the eye and said, “Hello Beautiful”! My first reaction was to smile back and say a joyous, enthusiastic “thank you” to this man who just made my day! I wished him a “good morning” back and walked away laughing, thinking what a spontaneous moment of connecting with another human being. As a former New Yorker, I could have responded by not acknowledging him and thinking he was a potential “stalker”, but my gut said otherwise. Why not acknowledge a compliment and give thanks to this total stranger who made me smile?
How many times have you sat in physicians’ waiting rooms with other patients, stood in a crowded elevator with everyone’s eyes looking up at the numbered floors as it ascended, or sitting on the subway with everyone looking down and no one communicates with each other? Is this acceptable behavior to give everyone space, privacy and be isolated by the masses? The term” Civil Attention” means acknowledging another person as they walk by as a human being that matters.
A study titled “To Be Looked at as Though Air: Civil Attention Matters” published in Psychological Science in January of 2012 by psychology professor Eric D. Wesselmann and three of his colleagues at Purdue University states: “Because social connections are fundamental to survival, researchers argue that humans evolved systems to detect the slightest cues of inclusion or exclusion. In other words, catching someone’s eyes, nodding to a stranger, or giving a smile acknowledges another person and makes a stranger feel included, and not ignored as if they do not exist or matter. This study helped prove that our subconscious picks up positive acknowledgement from others and contributes to our feelings of acceptance and feeling good.
I was watching the 1978 movie called , “Same Time Next Year” with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. Two single people having dinner separately meet at a restaurant, share eye contact and smiles, to eventually have coffee together, and talk through the night. This movie talks about their 26 year relationship with annual meetings that resulted in a loving relationship which enabled them to help each other with their spouses, life challenges and transitions. If they never acknowledged each other, two souls would lost the opportunity to have this “special connection”.
The next time, you walk by someone, make eye contact, nod, smile and say, “hello”! You never know where this connection may lead you…