I just spent the weekend at two conferences: Biz Tech Day and the Omega Institute's Women and Power Conference.
At both conference I felt I was with "my people." I eagerly made eye contact with others, openly smiled, and introduced myself to anyone and everyone I came across.
Now cut to the scene of me two days later in mass transit. As I unintentionally made eye contact with someone, something surprising came out of me. It was, "hello." The "hello" sounded surprised by its own existence. It was soft and vulnerable. It was almost lost and confused. The man I said hello to just passed me by.
And then, the flash of awareness hit. When I was a wee-one I remember being brainwashed not to speak to strangers by everyone from my teachers, my parents, and friends. "They could be dangerous and can kidnap you and feed you poison."
As a little girl, anyone who I did not know was a "stranger." Here's what stranger means according to some online dictionary: "anyone who does not belong in the environment in which they are found."
Is that how we view anyone who is not someone we know? As a STRANGEr? As someone who does not belong? Imagine if instead of walking down the street and seeing others as people who don't belong, you see them as if they do. How will your walk to work be different?
I challenge all of you (especially in NYC) to make more eye contact and smile to people as you pass them by.
Please report back and let me know what you experience.