As I stood on the streets of Collingwood today with a bunch of flowers in my hand I asked myself ‘why are you so nervous?’ All I had to do was hand out a single, free flower to people and give them a smile. But as I took my first step towards the unsuspecting stranger I had a wave of nerves over-come me. Reflecting now I can say that raw human interaction is a frightening experience and I think it would be safe to say it scares most of us, if not all of us.
If you sit on any type of public transport and take a look around there is a high chance you won’t make eye contact with many other commuters. What you will see is an array of people with their faces stuck in their phones, oblivious to the world that is surrounding them. Isn’t it funny how reluctant we are to start a conversation with the stranger next to us? After all, who wants to be seen as the ‘crazy’ one that everyone wants to avoid? I have been lucky enough to meet some wonderful people while sitting on public transport and have had some memorable conversations that have all taught me the importance of human interaction.
For most of us we get that human interaction from our families, our partners and our friends; but we stop there. What about our community? What about the thousands of people we walk past and ignore everyday?
Today we spent the morning on Smith Street trying to provoke some human interaction and connection. In the morning we handed out free roses to strangers and in the afternoon bought strangers free coffee. We discovered many things today, but here are just a few:
- People assumed that nothing is for free and almost everyone we encountered asked what we wanted in return and were quite hesitant to take the flowers or coffees. It wasn’t until we said its free and we are from ‘The Kindness Effect’ that they eased-up and cracked a smile.
- People don’t like making eye contact! Again, human interaction is scary!
- People LOVED getting free coffee.
- Once I relaxed and opened up so did the people I spoke to and interacted with.
- If I had a huge smile on my face, most people smiled back.
When we interact with strangers, we are vulnerable. What will they think of me? Will they judge me? They might think I’m stupid or I look like an idiot? All these questions went running through my head today as I walked up to strangers and handed them a rose or asked if I could buy them a coffee, but something magical happens when you let go of those questions and allow kindness to enter your whole being. That kindness flows from you to the stranger. Most people we encountered today were kind to us and that is what we are aiming for, human interaction that is building our level of kindness towards each other and ourselves.
Human interaction can be scary, but try it once in a while and you might find yourself smiling at the little things in life.
Put your phone down, lift your head up and start a conversation with someone you don’t know.