Sharing the lessons along the way…

With a smile and a nod…

Just Keep Smiling

In one brief snap shot of my morning, I had a fairly obtuse conversation about connecting with other human beings.

There was mention of being genuine, being real, being available, approachable and engaging others no matter where we are.  “All great leaders walked alongside the ones they were leading,” they said.

It is natural for me to engage others while standing in line at the grocery, walking around the campus at work or walking my dog, but what was suggested was that this could be taught.  Could it?  Can you teach someone how to be genuine and real?  Can you teach someone to be out there, available and engaging?

In spare moments throughout the day, I heard the questions echo in my mind.  What really goes into a real connection with another human?  For me it starts with the genuine concern and interest in others, so I wasn’t clear exactly how to teach that sort of thing.  So I tried to break it down further.

More often than not for me, initial connections with other humans involve eye contact and a smile.  Perhaps a nod, a hello, or a comment about something such as the weather will accompany them.  These are my in passing connections who I see as I am walking to or from one building or around the neighborhood.

What I notice is that these passing connections often open the door to a deeper level of connection that might involve introductions, a hand shake (still smiles and more eye contact) or directions to somewhere or to someone else.

I am mindful to never ask a question unless I actually have the time to hear the full response, so if I ask, I listen.  I am enough of an extrovert to do this and curious enough, by nature, to almost not be able to help myself.

Here is what I know for sure.  Communication skills can be taught.  Mindfulness can be taught.  We can present someone skillfully with information about a person that makes them seem more human and likable because of their story, which can sometimes initiate genuine concern or interest in what happens next in the story.

We can skillfully argue the “we are all human” card, and connected by that very fact, which might lead to an interest or genuine regard.  However, what if the story isn’t very great, doesn’t grab interest, or the story is deemed insignificant?  Does that mean that we are no longer connected to the human to whom the story belongs?  Does the capacity for empathy end when the story stops holding interest or feels threatening?

The connection doesn’t break for me there, as I am still genuinely interested in what happens next.  But can you teach that?  It seems the genuine interest and regard is the foundation of the connection with other humans—it is the key ingredient that makes the rest feel real to the other.  How can we teach someone to really care about another?   I feel confident we can, although the particulars are not clear (yet)!

It is Day Three of November’s writing challenge, so perhaps by the end of the month I might find a way!  In the meantime, feel free to chime in your thoughts on this stream of consciousness.






Comments on: "With a smile and a nod…" (6)

  1. We can certainly teach someone not to be (authentic) so logically it follow that the reverse should be possible!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tawny,
    I believe we are all born a clean slate ie; genuine, honest, engaging but it’s molded and formed by those that bring us up such as parents, teachers, clergy etc.
    Alot of times, if those around us are intraverts, likely we will be as well.

    So, yes, we all can be and have the capability to to be taught all you mention if willing to give and take on how we percieve things during our experiences as children, young adults and so on AND realize its not WRONG to be different from those who molded us from day one.
    How we are today is by being a product of our environment as small children on up.
    Some through experiences break that mold but what we learn early is always a light whisper in our brains, right? right!

    So many twists and turns.

    So, its not so much about being taught as it is about reprograming yourself and finding the freedom within ourselves to say “hey, my Mother always taught me to not talk to strangers” and change to “over the years, through my experiences, I have honed the skill of not talking to strangers well enough to actually talk to strangers”.

    We can be taught as you question BUT I believe we are taught through our experiences through human to human interaction. It is
    possible to learn without someone or something teaching us.

    When I worked at NSF, Social Behavior and Economic Sciences, this was an enormous discussion point. Glad you picked this to pick your and others brain. Lots of twists, turns, agreement, disagreement and takes on social behavior. Love it!

    Nice article, smarty pants, you! Lol
    Im an expert and know everything about Music and Sports, so what do I know. 😉
    Seriously, hope I brought something to your nicely written thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It again never amazes me that the tongue tied Swammy Tawny has the right words to say. Yes communication can be taught but compassion can not. You can’t go to Church every week , preach the word and give up on one another.. Tawny no matter what happens, I hope the individuals that read your blog, get the genuallity with which it is written.. And for the folks that stuggle physically and don’t understand , please know the impact that this AMAZING YOUNG LADY HAS MADE ON SO MANY LIVES NOT FACED WITH SUCH A HANDICAP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts Danny! And for saying such nice things! Sometimes an experience can shift a person’s capacity for compassion, although often that is a tragedy or something life altering. I am looking for the way around that having to happen to such a degree. Couldn’t exposure to lives around such tragedy instill that instead?


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