I’m sure we’ve all been in the position where you walk by someone and you avoid looking at them, staring intently at a Snapchat story to not make things awkward. I’m extremely guilty of that. I’ll even walk past an acquaintance that I don’t know very well just to prevent awkward small talk and uncomfortable pauses of silence.
It may sound obvious, but smiling at people and wishing them a good day is a thoughtful thing to do. I know this is a wild claim to make, but it’s truly amazing how a smile goes a long way, especially in the hospital setting. No one really wants to be in the hospital. Most of the time, people aren’t exactly happy or super excited to see a physician. The medical teams are preoccupied going from place to place. I’ve noticed that people are generally looking down at their phone or looking at the ground.
I decided to challenge myself and at least give a little glance at the person I’m passing and smile at them. Just a small smile. If they smile back, maybe I’ll wish them a good day. If they don’t, oh well, I tried and I don’t have anything to lose.
There was one point where I thought I was being creepy and making another person more uncomfortable. I smiled at a janitor and wished him a great day. He stopped dead in his tracks and stared at me. I thought I just ruined his whole life and my smile sucked his soul away. All I wanted to do was melt onto the floor. Instead, he genuinely thanked me for my comment and told me that he appreciated my simple gesture. I breathed a sigh of relief that I’m not a total creep and it made me realize that we can all try and be a little nicer.
When I smiled at someone or said a little hello, most people reacted well to it. They would smile back with a bigger smile and sometimes be a little shocked that I acknowledged them. While in the hospital, the nurses, physicians, secretaries, and janitors, would also smile back about 95% of the time. I’ve heard that fake smiling releases the same neurotransmitters and goes through the same chemical cascades as genuine smiling or laughing. Whether or not this is true, it’s nice to be in a positive environment. Sometimes there are little things like a simple smile that we take for granted. So don’t forget to smile!
cover photo: Child in Straw Hat, 1886 Mary Cassatt