Being friendly doesn’t have to be a chore

Picture this: you’re in your hometown for the summer, and you see someone you went to high school with for four years of your life in the mall.

You know their name, were maybe biology partners at one point and you even went to a party at their house one time.

You guys weren’t friends, but you definitely know each other. Still, you walk past each other in the mall, clearly making eye contact, but not saying hi.

You pretend you don’t know each other.

We’ve all been in this position before. You see someone in public that you clearly know, but you choose to pretend you don’t.

The best is when there is actually forced interaction.

For instance, I work in retail, so people who clearly know who I am will come to my checkout and will pretend that they don’t know me on a personal level. I’m handing them back their change, while just last week we were partners in a tutorial.

We’ve all been victims of this strange social contract, but we’ve also done it, as well.

There’s been several times where I see someone I kind of know, maybe I met them at a party while they were half in the bag.

Or maybe they’re my friend’s roommate who I’ve only met in passing, but for some reason, saying hi and being rejected in return is just about the most terrifying possibility to face.

No one wants to be overtly forward and say hi to someone who could have forgotten who you are. There’s nothing more humiliating than being asked, “What was your name again?” or “How do I know you?”

The strange thing is however that the fear and anxiety of being rejected seems to outweigh the human desire to be courteous and friendly. We would rather be rude and ignore another human being, who, chances are, knows exactly who you are, than take the risk to just say hi.

Some people are bad with names and faces, but most of the time I think being “bad with names” is just an excuse for being an asshole.

If I met you once, and we had a conversation, the least you can do is try to remember the general outline of my face and not be a total dick if we happen to run into each other at Starbucks.

I’ve recently been hyper-aware of how much this social contract annoys me.

In the past year, I have consciously tried my best to not ignore people I know when I run into them in public.

So far, the response from other people has only been positive.

I find when you finally build up the courage to just say hi, you can almost see the relief in the other person’s face. Instead of being rude, just get it over with. Help them out by relieving any anxieties they may have and I guarantee you will make their day a little but brighter just by being kind.

We move through life making interactions with people everyday. To me, that’s what leading a good life is all about: building positive interactions with others.

The second you ignore someone you clearly know, you’re throwing away those chances of having positive interactions.

Instead you’re becoming a turtle, someone who just seizes up at any slight chance of awkwardness.

I don’t care if we only met once. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, I think I met you last weekend at Chainsaw! How are you?”

It’s not awkward, it’s being human.

And being human is better than being a turtle.

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