I have always believed it’s easier to change our environment than it is to change our mind. People can’t be forced to show more empathy and compassion for others, but we can engage in behaviors that stimulate this feeling.
We need to look up to greet and wave again. I have a habit of waving at people when I’m driving, greeting people I pass on the sidewalk or at the store, and at minimum smiling when I cross paths with another human being.
I don’t always feel like it, but I never regret doing it. I don’t always receive the same gesture in response, but I still do it. We have to connect with others again. Say what you want about introverts and extroverts, cultural differences, and fear; I believe the risk is worth it and necessary.
Think how we could decrease the number of distracted drivers if we were all looking up anxious to smile and wave and worried we might miss someone. Think about the check- out line at the grocery store where you probably frown and look down at your phone while you wait—a smile and a kind word to those around you could change a lot of negative behavior (yours first). What about the bleachers at the sporting events where we hear lots of unkind words about the coach and the other parents? Substitute those conversations for smiles and introductions.
My 14-year-old son begs me to stop waving and speaking to people. His level of embarrassment goes beyond a teenage phase (although this is a big part of it). He is an example of something bigger in society. We have moved away from face to face interaction and value low risk faceless communication, a.k.a., text, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and others.
You don’t have a lot of time to really care about people who aren’t in your family and circle of close friends. I bet, though, you could substitute your next road rage fit with a kind wave while you sit.