I like to tease my clients at the little vintage shop were I work that the four most dangerous words in vintage shopping are, “I’ll think about it.” I’ve seen it time and again, a customer hymns and haws about an item only to come back later, ready to buy and find it sold. There is only one of any item in the store, if you want it, buy it.
Phrases like “I’ll think about it.” have become rooted into our modern lexicon. They come out of our mouths with out much thought and our brains have become programmed to reply with such phrases automatically.
How many times have I greeted a person entering the shop only to have them raise up their hands in defense and spew, “Just looking.” when all I was going to ask was how is their day going.
Has communication in the public realm become so defensive that we can no longer greet a stranger with an earnest intention without there being a hidden motive?
Phrases that have become common place on the surface and seem innocuous, are actually dangerous to the community glue of civility. Sure a phrase like, “just looking” is meant to keep a customer service representative at arms length, we all feel a little defensive by a slick sales person with a quota, but it creates a bubble of protective energy around us that over time hardens to a hard shell of indifference.
Another phrase that I hear all the time now is, “Have a good one.” On the surface, it seems that this is a catch all for all occasions replacing have a good day, a good evening, a good week and the like. This phrase has got it covered. But what it’s really saying is, I really couldn’t care less what kind of day, evening, or week you have. I just need to say something.
I find it interesting that in a world of instant information and a social media outlet for every taste, the folks in the know tell us that modern society is hungry for real connection. Face to face interaction where we can be seen by another soul in a meaningful way. Yet when we venture out into our communities where we can actually find this connection, we put up our emotional shields and go about our business.
Have we become a jaded bunch, afraid of our fellow man? Okay, in some parts of the world with gun violence running rampant, this may be justified but for the most part, the person in the line up ahead of you, or the clerk at the counter is as harmless as you are.
One of the ways we have become indifferent to others is with our words. Words are the mortar between the bricks of society. “I’ll think about it” really says I’m brushing you off. “Just looking” really says stay away from me. “Have a good one” really says that I really don’t care how the rest of your day is. One might argue that they are just casual phrases and people really don’t mean anything by them, and that may be true on the surface but as a society, our words have become a symptom of a growing apathy towards our fellow man.
And we carry this indifference over to our personal lives as well. How many times have you replied to a child begging for the latest toy or wanting to see the latest movie with a, “We’ll see”. Even here we use the phrase, “I’ll think about it”. Kids aren’t stupid, they know that this automatic answer is a brush off and they also know that in order to illicit some kind of definitive answer, (hopefully a yes) they have to break through that armoured bubble you have yourself in. Is it any wonder children whine, pester and annoy?
The lost art of social etiquette, may on the surface seem polite and at arms length but it is really a foundation to engage another soul politely and respectfully. We were all taught to say “please” and “thank you” but do we say them automatically now like robots or is the emotion of gratitude still supporting the words? When you do get around to saying “have a good day”, do you really mean it? Words with meaningful emotions supporting them is what human connection is. Words or phrases spoken without thought or as an automatic response add to the epidemic of indifference in the world.
The world has big problems. One need only to watch the nightly news to feel helpless. How can I, just one person, make a difference. The magnitude of issues reported on any given day overwhelms even the most confident of people. Why wouldn’t you feel the need to protect yourself in an armored bubble. Fear and anger make for dramatic headlines but indifference is the incubator that those emotions germinate in. Human need for connection, a need hardwired in our DNA, is the antidote to at least some of our anxieties.
We all have the power inside us to choose our words and respond purposely to the everyday interactions we have with others and to look beyond the everyday transactions of society and see the person behind them. To notice another soul and connect, even if it is for just a moment of our time.
And maybe, just maybe, these simple interactions will open you up to more and deeper connections. The type that feed your soul and create lasting bonds. Interactions that make you feel like you belong to a community of other liked minded souls. A like minded society, purposely choosing human connection. What a refreshing thought.
Words – the start of so many misunderstandings and conflicts.
Words – the start of so many wonderful experiences and connections.
Just words – a vibrational sound pressed between two lips, made into a phrase or sentence and send out into the world.
For the most part, we understand the power in what we say and are cautious to filter out the harmful ones but perhaps it is the words that we utter with out thought on a regular basis that are the ones that need our attention the most. Perhaps it is the words of indifference that are the most harmful as they insidiously etch at the mortar between the bricks of society like gritty pollution. The daily damaging effects invisible until viewed through the lens of time.