It’s funny how differently we act in different environments. The other day I was in my local town and as I walked past the taxi rank there was a group of drivers standing at the side of their cars. I heard one shout something out, but quickly hurried past – not really in the mood to acknowledge any banter. I guess this was my ‘leave me alone mood’. Half way down the street I suddenly realised that the taxi driver who’d yelled out was a guy who lived in my street. My mood changed rapidly from ‘leave me alone’ to ‘I don’t want to appear stuck up’, so I quickly turned and walked back to apologise and stop for a chat.
Out walking my dogs and my friendly dial is always turned up high. Saying hello to everyone else that has a dog, stopping to chat about breeds, training and comical dog behaviour with complete strangers, strangers whose faces I wouldn’t recognise ten minutes later if they walked past me without the dog!
…But not saying hello to those without dogs because that would appear odd.
In London the other week I was on the tube. If I spoke to a stranger there (or even made eye contact,) I’d be the one who appeared out of the ordinary, weird, not obeying the social rules of the situation that I’m in.
My nephew has autism. No one has explained these rules to him. So it’s easier for him to have the friendly dial always turned down. Unless he’s addressed by name he doesn’t look at anyone else, or make contact. It works for him. One rule for every situation. Sometimes I envy him his simplicity. He doesn’t have to think about his mood, or how he’s perceived by others. He just doesn’t care.
He doesn’t apologise for getting it wrong because in his model of the world it isn’t wrong. But the flip side is that he doesn’t get the benefit of feeling good about a conversation that has occurred out of the blue, one that brings with it new opportunities and friendships. My oldest friends have come from those spontaneous conversations. On my first day at secondary school I spoke to a girl who couldn’t find her classroom. We’re still best friends 30 years later. On the bus home from college I sat next to a girl who everyone said disliked me (she’d been told I disliked her), again 25 years later we are still friends. If I’d not made contact with strangers I’d not have half of the people I have in my life.
Although my friendly dial isn’t always up high, I know I feel better when it is. My husband has a plaque in his office – ‘be kind to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise’. I’ve met lots of these angels, and am blessed to have them in my life. So tomorrow I’m going to make sure my friendly dial is turned up – regardless of my inner mood. I’m not going to turn into some strange person talking to everyone. I’m just going to make sure I have a smile on my face and an approachable demeanour. And guess what? I reckon pretty soon my mood will match my actions. Proof in action that behaviour influences attitude.
Chrissie @ The Trows Hypnotherapy