Saturday, June 18, 2011

Friendliness in Murfreesboro, TN and Other Places

One of the things I’ve noticed living in the South, is how friendly people are.  When I run near home, people always say hi, wave a hand or give a nod.  The first time I ran on Cape Cod after living in Georgia for a year, I was struck by the lack of acknowledgement.   I’ve run all over the world and I’m struck by the variability in friendliness.

Among Seligman’s signature strengths are loving and being loved, and kindness and generosity.  They fall under the general heading Humanity and Love.  Also relevant are several strengths falling under the general heading of Transcendence.  These include gratitude and sense of purpose.  It seems to me that having strengths in these areas could account for some of the differences.  We know there are regional personality differences.

At the top of the friendliness thermometer are places where I say hi, 99% of people say hi back, and lots say hi first.  In the middle, are places where 50% say hi back, most don’t say hi first, but most kids in little bike trailers and jogging strollers wave.  At the bottom are places where few say high back, virtually none say hi first and even the little kids don’t acknowledge me.  In these places you start to wonder if you’ve entered the twilight zone and have mysteriously become invisible.

How hard is it to say hi or otherwise acknowledge a fellow human?  Particularly when you’re responding to someone else and you don’t have to initiate and run the risk of, heaven forbid, rejection.  But what if you do take the leap, initiate, and said hi to a stranger?  I can almost guarantee you’ll feel a little jolt of good-will, especially if they respond positively.  It has to be a happiness-boosting activity.  And Murfreesboro, I'd give you an 8 out of 10. 

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