When I started to work in James’ Gate Brewery, the first person who greeted me at the gate wasn’t my new boss but was actually an old manager from my time down in the Smithwicks brewery in Kilkenny.
The first destination was the stores to pick up a high vis vest and a pair of safety glasses. As we waited for the items, we discussed what had changed since we parted ways and how James gate differed from the old site. I found it odd that he said he was yet to see anyone he knew or recognized since picking me up at the gate despite the fact we had passed dozen of people. Kilkenny was such a small site and you would know everyone by their first name, even only after a few interactions with them.
James gate is the polar opposite. Don’t get me wrong, the people you work with on a daily basis are very friendly and helpful, but there are so many contractors and different companies doing work around the place, getting to know everyone who sets foot on site would not be possible. The site itself is so big that I’d fully believe that two people who may have worked there for 40 years, but in different departments, may not know each other at all. The site is just that big and populated.
However, because I was accustomed to working on the smaller Kilkenny site, the one where everyone talked to everyone else, I continued on as only I knew how. Passing someone on the way to the office I’d say “Morning”, “Hey” or “Great weather, eh?” only to be met either with a surprised “Eh, oh Hi!” or being blanked completely.
Although I couldn’t care less about not getting a response to a question asked just to be friendly, it sparked a thought in me that followed me outside of work also. Is this the same kind of reaction I’d get in the general pubic? I decided to give it a try!
As I passed someone on the way down to my car, getting out of a lift or even at a checkout in a shop I’d try to build some conversation into our interaction. “Great morning isn’t it?”, “You’d might want to think about bringing a jacket out there, its lashing”, even something as simple as a “Hey, hows it goin?”. I knew that this wasn’t all that common, especially with younger generations, but the results seen were actually a lot more shocking than I was expecting based on a number of premeditated results I had come to expect.
Up to this point I had noticed people actively trying to avoid these types of interactions. They might pull out their phone as they get close, look the other way completely and pretend not to hear or just straight up blank you. That is until you instigate the conversation first.
Once the conversation is started, people generally open up very easily to continued conversation. Sure this doesn’t happen in the second as you pass someone walking the other direction, but end up walking a few steps along side or caught in a lift with them for a few floors and the conversation just flows. They are, for the most part, friendly, understanding and more than happy to have a quick chat with you rather than standing in awkward silence!
Admittedly, I am disappointed in myself to say that this response took me by surprise. We, as a generation, are spending more and more of our days communicating with others alone. We text instead of call, post pictures online rather than show printed copies over coffee and listen to music in isolation through our headphones. We are no longer living in a world that sets some one up to interact with strangers in a smooth and regular basis.
I had taken all these points, and the fact that people naturally seem to gravitate towards being closed off rather than open, that any “forced” interaction I put on them would be met with disdain. I had expected the general population to be unfriendly and rude, and I am glad to say that I was wrong.
Human interaction is something that cannot be replicated or replaced with anything else. Even the smallest of gestures has the power to vastly brighten up someones day and I’ve found that it will generally be received with open arms. I see interacting with others and trying to brighten their days as something that is very important to me, and should be to everyone.
Personally I’m not sure what the source of this closed of nature people have is. Perhaps its being told as a child not to talk to strangers. Maybe it’s not wanting to come across as weird or crazy. Honestly, I don’t know nor do I really care. All I know is that the more human interaction we can inject into, not only our own lives, but the lives of others, the better the world will be for it.
“I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” Dale Carnegie – How To Win Friends And Influence People