I did it. I said hello to over 750 strangers in 30 days! This idea came as I was studying the life of Jesus Christ and his ability to show kindness everywhere He went. I thought, if Christ were alive today, what would His interactions look like at the gym, work, Home Depot, Trax, work cafeteria or even a parking lot? Surely He would not limit Himself to His family, friends, and coworkers. He would have also connected with strangers.
Trying to be a good Christian man myself, I wondered how I could exemplify the Savior’s example in showing kindness wherever I go? The thought of showing kindness to strangers gave me instant anxiety. I’m an extrovert, but I have my limits. So I asked the following questions:
1. How do I show kindness to strangers?
2. What are the social norms of interacting with them?
3. How will strangers respond to my efforts to connect with them?
4. Do I personally have the ability and personality to connect with strangers without being perceived as weird or annoying?
5. Do other strangers even care that I make an effort to connect with them?
6. What can I do on a regular basis to show kindness?
I said, What the hell! I’m going to say hi to 25 strangers a day for 30 days and see what I learn about showing kindness and connecting with strangers. I had no idea what this was going to look like but excited for whatever I would learn from it.
After over 750 hey's, good morning's, and what’s up's, I’m now able to answer my questions. Please remember, this is MY interaction based on MY personality, MY energy and MY interpretation. My point of view only. So take it for what it’s worth.
I carried this counter everywhere I went for 30 days to count my hellos
Foundation for kindness
I feel the foundation of kindness is acknowledging another human matters. And that foundation is so critical for other virtues to build. I believe most people want to do good and be good. And if we came across a situation where heroism was required, I think most of us would step up to the plate. But what about acknowledging a stranger?
Reaching out to strangers is scary. It requires us to get out of our comfort zones and take risk of rejection or being perceived as weird. It easy to help someone when something heavy has fallen on them and they obviously need our help. But when a stranger seems perfectly content and happy, now what? Is that the end of it? No. We can show kindness to the content and happy ones. That kindness begins with a hello.
The most basic and genuine “hello” speaks volumes. It says:
• I acknowledge you, like me, as another creation of God.
• I acknowledge you, like me, have joy, pains, happiness, and fears.
• I acknowledge that you matter.
Difference between compassion and kindness
• Compassion = empathy/sympathy + action
• Compassion shows I hurt because you hurt
• Kindness = desire to lift + action
• Kindness shows I acknowledge that you matter
• Compassion or kindness without empathy/sympathy/desire to lift is just an action. There’s no connection of souls.
How to connect with hello
• Notice people around you.
• Keep your head up and go for eye contact.
• Must say greeting once eye contact is made, DON’T linger because it turns weird.
• Use a confident and friendly hey, how’s it going? or good morning.
• Actually saying hello or hi just felt and sounded weird. Practice saying either of those words out loud right now and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
• Soft greetings are either not heard or ignored.
• Use a generous but not exaggerated hand jester/wave with an open palm.
• Silent head nods from man to man are the social norm for most men.
• Make them feel as is you’re already friends. But not long lost friends or flirting. There’s difference and people can sense it. Unless flirting is your goal.....then by all means.
Places I said hello
• Rolled my window down and waved to runners and people walking their dogs.
• Public transportation
• Grocery isles
• Parking lots
• Gas pumps
• Shopping centers
Bad New First – Not so good things I noticed
• When we enter a room or walk past a stranger, we look everywhere but at the other person.
• We’ll quickly pull out our phones to look occupied rather than have eye contact.
• If I wasn't careful, my attempt to have eye contact to say hello turned to a split-second awkward-staring match with the other person.
• When I tried to say hi to some people, I could tell they made effort to not have eye contact.
• Sometimes we’ll take different walking paths to avoid walking past another human.
• Even though said hi the day before, there’s the temptation on both parties to ignore each other’s presence again.
• I feel our walls can be so thick sometimes that we are not aware of our need for human connection and kindness.
• Sometimes I got the vibe of I'm not going to let you show me kindness. I'm going to put a wall that I'm comfortable in ignoring your presence. It's comfortable, safe, and I've been taught this is socially acceptable.
• I’m guessing, some men didn't respond well because of homophobia. I knew I was pushing social norms is saying hello to so many people, especially for a man to say hello to another man in the grocery isle.
• We are a busy people with stress and many of things on our minds. Not noticing another person trying to say hello is normal in today’s society.
• Store employees have no problem saying hello. But the feeling I got from them acknowledging my presence compared to a stranger acknowledging my presence was huge. I preferred the energy from the stranger because they weren't paid to do it. They did it because they are good people. Good people give off good energy.
• Of the 750 hellos, only 7 people beat me to the punch line and said hello first.
• When I told family/friends about my social experiment, some said But hey, a lot of times I want to be left alone. I was NEVER annoyed by any of the 7 who said hello because I wanted alone time. My spirit was always lifted a bit from such kindness.
• I always regretted not saying hello.
Great things I'm noticed
• I've never regretted saying hello.
• Kindness is my gift to give freely. It has infinite value and doesn't diminish the more I give it out. I can choose to give it freely and often, regardless if I think the other individual will accept it or not.
• It’s take very little energy or brain power to say hello.
• There’s a man code of “the nod”. When eye contact is made, both men nod their head up once to make acknowledgement. That’s it. The connection is completed. Can be hard to do “the nod” because good eye contact has to be established first.
• Kindness can become a habit. It takes practice so it is habitual and not awkward. When we accidentally bump into someone, we automatically apologize. It’s a normal and automated response. Saying hello to strangers can be trained the same way.
• At day 1, I was feeling lots of anxiety and knew I looked awkward to many. But by day 30, I was confidently saying hello automatically.
• I usually got a shot of joy or happiness or whatever you want to call it when I said hello.
• Saying hi makes people smile.
• Saying hi makes people smile behind a grumpy face. I never saw the smile. But I could feel it.
Other things I noticed
• It's awkward saying hi loudly or exaggeratedly waving to get someone's attention that is pretending they don’t see me or are clueless that I’m trying to say hi. It made me laugh though each time it happened. Felt stupid but I still laughed.
• I felt some people put off energy that I should be grateful to be in their presence. A very self-absorbed vibe they put off. But I could be wrong. They could have their mind on heavier things, but it was still hard not to judge them.
• The greatest hindrance in saying hello was the avoiding of eye contact whether through looking at phones or looking everywhere but at the person
• It’s awkward saying hello to woman around my age or younger. There’s the whole, Is he flirting with me? Doesn't he see my ring?
• Some days I didn’t have a desire to say hello to anyone but just wanted be present with myself. After the 750 hellos, I would advocate that showing kindness as we go about our activities helps us enjoy our solitude and alone moments.
• Some days I only said hi to 4 people. Other days it was over 60.
• Both extrovert and introvert can say hello. The difference is the extrovert might try to make conversation.
• There’s a different energy when reaching out for different motives. Trying to connect for networking verses because we want to be kind puts out a completely different vibe and people can feel it.
How strangers’ responded to my hellos
• Some replied back with hey, had eye contact, a bored look on their face.
• Some replied back with hey while never lifting their eyes off their phones.
• It appears some people were thinking, How does this guy know me? Should I know him? He acts like he knows me. I’ll just play along”
• Some would flash a big smile and eyes light up. I could feel them saying Thanks for letting me know I matter.
• Sometimes I got muffled responses to show they made a feeble attempt to be nice back.
• But, most were simple, I’m doing well. Thanks. Or hey man.
Don’t judge when the hello is rejected
• Everyone carries wounds that cause them to react how they do. Some wounds make people really nice and humble. Other wounds make people jerks. But both humble people and jerks need kindness.
Why show kindness when there’s risk of rejected
• Yes, rejection hurts. Even healthy people feel hurt when they are rejected or ignored.
• But connection through kindness is something money can’t buy. The risk of rejection is completely worth it to lift another soul. Just because someone rejects us, it’s was probably never really about us anyway.
• After 4 weeks, quite a few have become friends, especially at the gym and at work where I see the same people regularly. I have at over a dozen new people that we chat about jobs, wife, kids, and life experiences.
• Again, I never once regretted for each out. But always regretted when I remained silent.
• I honestly drew closer to God through reaching out.
• I’ve become more present with God and myself.
• I’ve become a happier person and more confident.
• It strengthened my self-worth
• My desire to love and lift others around me has increased.
• I feel I have a better sense of how to break down walls and connect with people.
Will I continue to say hello to 25 people a day? Probably not that many. I was pushing so hard to find 25 people a day that I was willing to push social norms. But I will continue to say hello to strangers and show kindness with those I meet.
It was an awesome social experiment that pushed me out of my comfort zone, made me new friends, and gave me the confidence to show kindness to others through saying hello. Bottom line, I wanted to be more like my Savior. I wanted to learn how to show kindness wherever I go. And I wanted to see if I could do it. And I did.