As anyone who’s read more than a few posts here will know, I write about my experiences. Some are good and some are not-so-good. Sometimes I write about lovely adventures and sometimes I write about harsh realities that I come to realize. Either way, most of my writing is grounded in experiences, whether it be good, bad, or simply insightful.
Today, I write while trapped in a small room with 19 others whom I’ve never met before. We sit here mostly in silence as we prepare to perform our civic duty and await instruction from those in charge. As I sit here in the corner, I observe those around me as I often do. I actually have somewhat of a tendency to infer things about those around me when I’m surrounded by new people. At restaurants, I piece together story lines about the relationships of those at nearby tables. When checking out in Target, I imagine what the person in front of me’s day has been like or where they might be headed next. I do not do this from a perspective of nosiness. Instead, I believe this tendency comes from an area of being simply fascinated with human behavior and people’s “stories.”
Today, as I sit in a room full of somewhat disgruntled strangers, there is so much to observe. Here are a couple of things that I noticed:
- Negativity spreads like wildfire. At first, everyone sat relatively quietly and what would seem like patiently. Suddenly though, when the first negative comment was made, madness ensued. Before, everyone was mild-mannered and polite. After just one reference to “them letting us die of thirst,” the mood changed. Suddenly, others began to complain. We heard stories of needing to be at work to make money, having to drive far in the rain, and recovering from the flu. Before, everyone seemed at peace. It was simply amazing at how quickly one bad mood spread throughout the room.
- We have the ability to transform someone’s perspective. Shortly after the negativity began to spread, I decided to do a little experiment. I made eye contact with a lady across the room and mouthed, “I love your pants,” with a smile. Her face lit up immediately. Only moments prior, you could see the negativity starting to creep up on her. However, with the kind word of a stranger, she successfully fought off the bad vibe and maintained joyful. Then, she spread a bit of joy to the person next to her and I saw the room starting to transform again.
After noticing this simple concept, I began to think about the affect we have on other people. Each day as we pass through our daily routines, we come in contact with various people, some regular acquaintances and some complete strangers. Most of the time though, I think we disregard the effect we have on these people. The fact is though, we have the ability to either enhance or dampen the days of those we come in contact with. Sometimes, something as simple as a smile can transform the day of a stranger. Sometimes, picking up a dropped item for someone in our office can encourage a sigh of relief. On the contrary, if we spread a funky mood throughout the world, it’s likely to take root too.
I sat there observing the room and felt amazed and encouraged that I was able to have a positive impact on a room of 19 strangers, with very little effort even. Then it dawned on me, if I can inspire the mood of a group of strangers, what capabilities do we have within our own small groups? What chances are we missing to encourage and teach positivity to our children? What would those we work with say of our overall demeanor? I think too often we forget to consider these things. We forget to consider that we’re capable of setting a mood…both in a positive manner and in a negative. We forget that people are constantly observing our actions and often repeating them. Rather than simply reacting today, I encourage you to choose your responses wisely. Consider that there’s a world of people watching you, both openly and in secret. Consider that YOU have the ability to encourage those around you and to transform the room. If we’re all a little more intentional with our actions today, maybe we can actually change the world.
Photo from http://oppj.org/.