Let me paint a picture for you that I see way too often.
Person A enters the subway and bumps into Person B, who is standing directly in front of the door looking at their phone. Person A doesn’t acknowledge that they have hit Person B. Person B does not move from their spot in the doorway and continues to block people entering and exiting the train.
So, let’s vote. Who’s wrong here?
I say the only correct answer is both. Everyone is wrong here. Hopefully most of you reading agree, but maybe not, since this type of scenario happens all the time. It’s super annoying to have to deal with that type of situation on your commute, but I think it’s a sign of a larger problem.
We need to start being more mindful of, and acknowledging, people around us.
It’s not just on the subway. I’ll hold the door for someone passing me in a hallway and they will say no words to me in return. I don’t know why this continues to shock me, since it does happen regularly, but I am always shocked. How could you not acknowledge someone who just did you a favor, even if it was small? There’s a PERSON in front of you who tried to make your life a little easier. Say thank you. Nod. Smile. Wave. Give a thumbs up. SOMETHING.
Okay, one more extreme example, because I know you can’t wait to hear it.
When Jor-El and I go to Yankees games (which, if you know us, is often) we always sit on the aisle. Over the years, we’ve discovered that people do some really interesting things when trying to get to their seats. We do get a lot of people behaving like decent human beings who say “Excuse me” and then wait for us to move so they can get by. But, sadly, we also have had people (on more than one occasion!) just climb over us.
Yup. I’m 100% serious when I say that we have experienced people just barreling their way through our legs without uttering a sound or even looking us in the eye to get to their seats in the same row. Sometimes I have been STARTLED. It’s not fun to suddenly have a stranger in your lap. At least not at a baseball game. At least not for me.
All jokes aside, this is a problem when it happens in more subtle ways also.
Hopefully you’re not forgetting to tell someone before you climb over their person, but maybe someone sent you a message on Instagram that you ignored. Or a text from a friend went unnoticed. Perhaps you accidentally got in someone’s way crossing the street and didn’t wave an apology. Those are all little things, but at the end of the day, it means that there’s a person who you impacted that you didn’t acknowledge. I know that doesn’t feel great when it happens to me, so I would imagine other people share my experience as well.
There are always exceptions to any rule.
My exception to this rule? Harassment or rudeness.
If you call me a name or say something insulting, I’m not answering you. That behavior doesn’t require a response from me. But hopefully, that’s not how most people are interacting with you.
And of course, no one’s perfect.
I know there are times when my bag hits someone and I don’t say anything because I’m in a hurry. But I try to be mindful of those moments, recognize that I made a mistake, and do my best to avoid it in the future.
We live in a world of staring at screens and a lot of cool technology. It makes our lives easier, but it also give us a lot of ways to avoid person to person contact. Sometimes that’s great, but it’s also really hard. The world can be lonely, and we’ve all had days when being a person is a serious struggle. Acknowledging your impact on another person is a simple and powerful way to help someone get through their day. That single event might not be a huge deal, but over time the feeling of not being seen really gets to you. Not having your body respected enough to not be run into (or receive an apology when it happens) isn’t a good feeling. It also has a big negative effect on a person’s overall well being if it happens often enough.
So let’s do that more often. Let’s all try to do our part to help people feel noticed and meaningful. It’s a small, easy way to make the world a kinder place.
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