How 20 strangers saying ‘hello’ to me, set me up for the day

Guest blog post by Carole Ann Clarke, Chief Experience Officer, I Am Here Europe

Today’s blog post comes to us from Carole Ann Clarke, I Am Here’s Managing Director, Europe. Carole Ann has always been curious and loves challenging herself – in a bid to live her life to the fullest and work hard to achieve her goals. She has captained her country in rugby, and also played interprovincial hockey and senior football. She has had a very successful corporate career working for multinationals such as Coca-Cola and Diageo and singing has been a constant along the way…. and in Carole Ann’s words ‘there are lots more adventures to come!’.

I am incredibly lucky to live by the sea and be surrounded by mountains. I don’t think I fully appreciate it either. However, just knowing they are there is sometimes enough, or the sound of the seagulls or gusting winds gives me comfort.

The hill or the pier?
Recently, I have the urge to walk more and I’ve been going to what we call ‘the hill’. For some reason ‘the hill’ is drawing me there. Is it because it’s full of bushes, mucky paths, trees with contrasting views, a wind that would cut through you, with lots of dogs running free and just more ‘raw’? Don’t get me wrong. The pier is lovely in itself but since they put in a new concrete surface a few years ago, I never feel the urge to go there apart from when it’s very quiet or when the boys want to fish.

The impact of nature on human behaviour
Anyway, the other thing I have noticed in a big way is human behaviour. When you go to ‘the hill’ – everyone says ‘hello’ and, with most people you get a ‘hello’ and a smile back. I didn’t go there in a particularly bright humour this morning and within a couple of minutes I was feeling more positive and my head was lifting a little higher every few minutes.

My little experiment
I watched people as they approached me, and I put on what I would now call my ‘hello’ face (my hubby says I can look a bit grumpy when deep in thought!). I generally could work out who was going to say ‘hello’ but even a few who were deep in thought lifted their heads for a quick and quiet ‘hi’.. honestly, the experience was heart-warming.

By the end of my walk, my shoulders were back, head held high and I was beaming before I said ‘hi’ to anyone and, decided I would move into an ‘I’m going to go first’ mode and instigated the ‘hello’ – I got lots of beaming smiles back and for those not expecting a ‘hello’, I got a ‘hello’ back as they went past me (I think I must have been one of those people before the last few weeks!).

Clearly, there were those who just wanted their own space ( I didn’t scare them I promise) or were having chats on the phone (so in total I would say approx. 65% of people I met said ‘hello’ – that’s still impressive no?)

Can we move this beyond a walk in a nice place?
On reflection, I said ‘no’, and thinking about the speed of walkers on the pier and the lack of engagement generally there (unless you meet someone you know or you try really hard to engage (I must check I don’t have my grumpy face on next time!), or thinking about the busy streets we all go down daily – again you would say ‘no’ but then I remembered an experiment a few years back (I’ve been searching for the video for two hours to show you but it’s gone sorry!) by a guy in the Netherlands who for three months said ‘hi’ to everyone he met on the way to work – same route, same people, same time every day. He witnessed a complete change in behaviour over that three months and they started calling it the happy route. He even became really good friends with people he had possibly judged before his experiment – so that proved that it can be done – it might be hard on the busiest streets in cities but it would work in your office, neighbourhood and community spaces. It has to start somewhere.

A leaving thought
The impact of 20 people saying ‘hello’ to me this morning was noticeable. The human voice clearly has a some kind of healing power. I felt like I counted, it acknowledged the importance of human connection, warmth and in some ways bravery as we live in a world now where some people almost feel uncomfortable to communicate in public and would rather live on their mobile phones.

THANK YOU to those who said ‘hello’ to me this morning – you completely changed my mood and fed my continued optimistic faith in people…

What can you do today to make a difference in some else’s life?

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