Column: The importance of being friendly

Malia Wanderer, Sports Editor

With social distancing guidelines remaining in effect for a seemingly infinite amount of time and the news only growing more depressing, it’s easy to lose hope of a better future.

The recent spread of frustration and sadness due to the death of George Floyd and the ensuing riots has left positivity in short supply all over the country. In a time like this, something that helps me remain positive is putting an effort into making someone else’s day better by greeting them as I walk by.

As many of us are going out of our way to avoid each other to maintain social distancing, the move away from someone can come off as unfriendly even if it’s well-intended. Greeting someone walking by with a smile, wave or a hello can allow you to make a positive impact and give you a strengthened sense of purpose.

Greeting a stranger as you pass by could brighten not only their day but yours as well. It might seem odd that it could make you happier, but after greeting almost everyone I have passed by for the last two months, when someone appreciates my gesture, it makes me smile and gives me a reason to keep being friendly.

Over time, offering a friendly hello to strangers will boost your confidence in approaching people and help you build an inner feel-good sense of warmth. In addition, a 2016 Oxford University study concluded that being kind to others will improve your well-being.  

While some people might not say “hi” back and either look the opposite way or give you a sideways glance, a friendly gesture could still cause them to smile a little inside. Eventually, you will find someone who expresses appreciation for the gesture, and you will be rewarded with a smile. Besides, the worst thing that can happen by being friendly is an awkward interaction with someone you will never see again.

It can be very frightening and awkward at times to greet the strangers you pass by on the street, but if you look for people who make eye contact with you as you approach them, a quick friendly smile and wave can substitute for a verbal greeting. 

If greeting strangers is outside your comfort zone, try to be courteous to everyone around you. Remember that we’re all going through the same thing, and becoming impatient and irate won’t help anyone. 

With many sources of negativity in our lives, it is paramount that we look for the good moments in between the bad news, which can be as simple as receiving a smile from a stranger. 

So, the next time you go for a walk, run or bike ride, use it as an opportunity to be friendly to people you pass by to promote positivity, and even if they don’t show it, you can hope you made their day better. It’s well-known that a smile can go a long way, but it has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is with you.