So last week I set a challenge for those of us who find meeting new people terrifying and holding conversation difficult. The provocation was to talk to a new person everyday for seven days – in the supermarket, in the pub, wherever. Some people do this without thinking anyway, but for many people it’s a constant source of anxiety.
How did you get on? I hate to say, that I didn’t quite manage it – not everyday, despite Irina’s regular coaxing. But I did on some days, and I’m amazed by how fulfilling it was. It took some courage to step out and start conversations, but in the end I found meeting and chatting to new people satisfying and enriching. It’s a habit I want to keep pursuing.
On the first day I visited an elderly lady, a friend of my grandmother. The lady is sick with a terminal illness and my grandmother was worried about her; she’s been talking about her a lot lately, wondering how she is. So while out on a walk in the lanes with Sasha, I found myself walking right past her house. So I thought I’d pop in.
It was daunting turning up unexpected at a stranger’s home. I had visions of her releasing the hounds on us as we made our way down the long gravel drive. Will she think I’m a burglar? How will I make her understand me since she can’t hear so well? But I didn’t need to worry; it went well. She was happy to have a visitor, and we had a great chat. We’re going to see her again soon.
I’ve been discovering that when you start giving out, you begin to receive. I’m not sure why, but since I’ve been attempting to be more outgoing and more giving of my time on a daily basis, people have started doing the same to me. People I don’t know or only know by sight have been making an effort to chat to me. Next week I’m going for a drink with someone I met as a result as one of those chats.
All of us have something to give to the people around us, even if it’s just an encouragement or a smile. It’s important to live everyday aware of that – that you and I are givers, that we are powerful people who have the ability to positively impact the people in our world. Making a choice to adopt this attitude everyday means that we add wherever we go. If, on the other hand, we don’t recognise what we have to give away and make the mistake of thinking we are poor, we will subtract from any environment that we are in.
When some people walk into a room the atmosphere suddenly gets better, doesn’t it? Do you know someone like that? The levels of fun and expectancy go through the roof, and it’s because they are carrying an understanding of what they have to give. They know what they have to add to the equation. It’s also why the opposite happens when other people enter the party; they view themselves as having nothing to bring, and therefore only consume, sucking joy and life out of the gathering.
Giving in the way that we live – of our time, our words, our energy, our money, even our thoughts, isn’t only great for those around us, it’s also critical in order for us to live happy lives. Lots of research shows that this is the case. For example, a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that employees who were more altruistic in their workplaces were happier people, as well as being more committed to their work and less likely to quit.
We’re designed to have an out-flow, to have a positive impact on our surroundings. If we don’t, we, as well as those around us, suffer. As a lake goes stagnant if it doesn’t have water flowing out of it, we die inside if we are not living a giving lifestyle.
So, this week work out what you have to give to the people in your life – it’s probably a lot more than you think. You are a powerful person, with the authority to bring good things into the lives of those around you. In doing so, you will find that you receive even more in return. People want to be around givers.