Spread the smile – or the scowl

The knock-on impact

Sometimes we don’t realise the impact that we have on people – for better or worse.

And the woman and child who gave me those lovely smiles certainly didn’t.

It was about 8.30 AM on a dreich (that's Scottish for dreary and miserable) mid-winter morning and I was driving to one of our New Forest courses.

Through the tiny village of Winkton, in the New Forest, the traffic was heavy, bumper to bumper and moving steadily in both directions. And waiting to cross the road was a woman with a child of about six or seven on their way to the school.

I stopped and flashed my headlights to alert the oncoming traffic which then stopped to allow them across.

The smile

As she crossed the road she made eye contact, as did the little boy, and both waved happily and gave the most wonderful smiles.

To me stopping had been an almost automatic response. My mind was elsewhere, running through the material for the workshop that I was going to present.  But she continued to smile as they crossed the road and continued to look at me directly still smiling – with the result that I had to smile back. The warmth of her smile provoked a genuine happy smile and feeling of warmth which stayed with me all morning.

And she will probably never know what she did for me

We can do it with a smile

I often drive in rush-hour, especially over the past year since I’ve left country living and become a townie once again. And, like everyone else, when I’m trying to pull out from side roads or turn across oncoming traffic queues I rely on the goodwill of other drivers to give way.

The majority of drivers realise that we do need to give way to one another to keep the traffic flowing smoothly. And it’s great when somebody does let you through, especially when they do it with a wave or a smile. And when I’m in the same position I like to do the same.

And of course when my wave or smile is returned it gives me a little warm glow of goodwill-to-the-world for the next while. Which this makes it more likely that I will continue to give way and smile to others. Who, in turn, pass the smile and the generosity on.

I’ve watched what happens when I allow others, waiting in a side road to join the traffic queue or traffic flow I’m in. And I’ve noticed that the majority of these then tend to be courteous and helpful to others for some time afterwards.

Or we can scowl

Sadly of course the opposite applies. When people refuse to give way, even in almost stationary traffic, I sometimes get a bit irritable (though being a true NLPer, this is, of course, an extremely rare experience…!) and for the following few minutes I am less likely to give away, let alone smile, to other drivers - a discourtesy which they no doubt pass on.

I’ve noticed the knock-on effect here, too. Those that have to force their way into the queue or flow do tend to then drive more aggressively, tailgate others and rarely give way to anyone – driver or pedestrian.

What about me – and you?

Now writing this has pulled me up. And got me thinking.  If being generous and courteous, as drivers, makes us feel good why don’t we be really selfish and get into the habit of doing a lot more of it?

Memo to self: next time I get into the car remember to be selfish.


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