For want of a compliment …

It’s amazing what a compliment can do. I went to the post office on Friday to deliver the books for the Goodreads Sweepstakes winners – Hurray! I hope the winners enjoy their copies! – and found myself standing in a line. (I know, big surprise there, right?) Anyway, as I was standing there, this lady got in line behind me. She seemed … well … angry. And considering the length of the line, I couldn’t really blame her.

Some older people up in front of the line were talking about the “good old days” when Truman was running amok, and I eavesdropped for a bit before the two were helped and left. Finally, after ten minutes of ho-hum-drum-silence, I turned to the angry lady behind me and told her I liked the color of her sweatshirt. (It was robin’s egg blue, by the way.)

In five seconds flat, the angry demeanor and unsociable attitude melted away from this woman and she smiled at me. For the rest of the wait, we talked about listening to those older people talk about Truman and discussed just how interesting it was to hear the way things used to be. (For the record, I am not old enough to remember Truman, but I do know who he was.)

The wait was enjoyable when conversation was finally started, and all it took was a little compliment. This got me to thinking – what if everyone, everywhere, found something nice to say about whoever was standing behind them in a line, or sitting beside them on the bus or … you get it. As a society, we seem to be horrified at the prospect of talking to strangers. I mean, it’s one of the first things we’re taught as children; “Don’t talk to strangers!”

But there comes a point where we all grow up and realize the persons surrounding us aren’t all serial killers and potential rapists; we shouldn’t be so terrified that we can’t give someone a small compliment.

And good heavens! What is so wrong about smiling at someone as you pass them?

Because of the post office lady, I decided to try another experiment … I walked down the sidewalk and smiled at everyone who walked by me. All but three people smiled back. One actually said; “Good afternoon.” Granted, I might have looked like a grinning lunatic to some of them, but I promise I am fairly harmless looking.

This experiment left me feeling rather sad. I’ve decided to blame the unsociable attitude and general lack of response to the fact that it was finals week. Finals can make everyone unsociable. I’ll try again in a week or two.

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