My grandpa always told me to smile, he said I looked prettier when I smiled. Given that I liked any attention I could get, and I seemed to get it most for being pretty, I made sure I smiled often. Truly, he had a point. Science has proven that a simple smile can calm the brains of those around us and have us feel safer. Truth is usually so simple, but not easy. The answer to many of your relationship concerns? Pause and smile.
Most days, when I head out of my home and make my way out and about amongst the people, I find myself looking into the eyes of everyone I meet, smiling, and often saying hello.
I am alarmed by the number of people who do not look at me at all, or, if they do, immediately look away, with no acknowledgement of my being in front of them.
Sometimes I feel sad. I quickly regulate myself and continue on, and sometimes, I meet smiling eyes, a cheerful grin, and a delightful greeting from another, acknowledging that they see me. That feels delightful.
I can’t help but wonder, why do we ignore each other?
I have a bajillion theories around this, most of them sounding something like, well, we treat others how we feel about ourselves.
If I am unhappy, insecure, frightened of people, then certainly I don’t want to be seen by another, and I definitely won’t be a shining happy person upon glancing at a stranger. I mean, smiles and love are for family and close friends, for that stranger might give us poisoned candy, right?
As a young child, my mother read me a frightful story of a girl who agreed to go with a strange man back to his home and when she arrived she felt scared and managed to call the police and return home safely. Though nothing happened to her, the intention of mal-intent was clear and I was left with a wild imagination of all the horrible things a stranger might do to me. I joke with my mother that she scarred me for life by sharing that story with me.
We all had some form or another of fear instilled inside of us, sometimes for good reason, sometimes as little more than programming.
It’s healthy to have discernment, and we don’t have to like everyone, nor am I saying we must greet everyone we meet on the street with our attention and affection.
I am saying that it’s time to do that a little bit more, if we are someone who is isolated from community, fearful of others, or in a habit of ignoring those on our path. Let’s push against our edges, expand our boundaries, and make room for people in our hearts while we are at it.
If you are interested in love, connection, and relationships with those in your community, perhaps it starts with the trash guy? I just met my “trash man” this week. I chatted him up, thanked him, introduced myself and bid him good day. I immediately felt more connected.
From a spiritual perspective, we are spirit. We are God. God, says a Course in Miracles, is love. If we are pure love, so is everyone else. I think it’s time that we begin to trust one another and ourselves.
Knowing we are God infused with choice, and a strong sense of intuition, we can trust. If we need to fight or flee, we will instinctively do so. We need not protect ourselves and categorize others as strangers. We are heading toward tribal living again. We all want our tribe. Our chosen family. We can find one another faster if we open up.
If I go to my yoga class and I bow and say Namaste, but then I ignore most on my path out in the world, am I a hypocrite? Is our acknowledging of the divine saved only for yoga class?
In my experience, we can quickly judge another and then find out that they are not who we thought they were. Have you ever summed somebody up, written them off, and then been embarrassed when you find out who the are? I have.
When we are open to receiving, we can be surprised by who shows up in our world, in the most casual of ways, with a possible gift for us.
In the realm of our intimate partnerships, smiling can change the trajectory of your relationship, I guarantee it. One time I was in a horrible fight with my boyfriend. We were arguing and yelling. There was a moment when something happened, and I could feel a smile coming on, I had a moment of amusement, and gift of grace offering pause. I ignored it, stuffed the smile and continued arguing. He got so mad he punched a hole in his wall. I’ve thought about that time often, the power I held in that moment to diffuse a situation that too soon reached a point neither one of us wanted.
In heated arguments, it’s not always easy. We, in fact, have to practice and learn ways to circumvent the habitual patterns of our logical left brain, wired to prove it’s right, and make room for our left brain, that can pause, breathe, and smile. To learn more about the way the brain works in loving relationships, read, Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship by Stan Tatkin.
If we open our hearts, acknowledge one another and offer a smile, we send a signal to their brains that we are safe. We are open. We want to receive. And that, my friends, is the promised land.
To have a friend, be a friend.
In smiles, relaxed shoulders, open hearts and deep breaths,
Rachel LOVE Claire