Live Science reported on research out of Purdue University that showed how small gestures of acknowledgement make people feel connected, and when people feel connected, they feel better about themselves. Conversely, when ignored by a stranger, people felt socially disconnected and not so good about themselves.
I work in downtown Ottawa, Canada. Every day I walk by countless strangers without acknowledging them in any way. They are busy, rushing to meetings, or chatting with companions. They already thrive in social connections. But I do smile, nod or say hello to some people. When I see homeless or disenfranchised members of society standing on street corners, I acknowledge them. I can’t solve all their problems, but I can do some small thing to make them feel connected.
You might have heard of Dr. Masaru Emoto’s famous work with water crystals. His experiments show that positive thoughts affect water crystals in a positive way. His controversial results stretch the imagination and skeptics claim they are pseudo-science, but no matter how you feel about it, his work prompted many people to try home experiments on the same theme.
One family prepared three jars of rice: one with a label that read, “Thank you,” a second with a label that read “You fool,” and a third that they ignored. After a month, the rice in the jar with “Thank you” began to turn to ferment with a mellow malty smell, and the jar with “You fool” turned black and rotten. And the jar they ignored? It rotted and turned black fastest of all. It seems that ignoring something is the most damaging form of behaviour.
Smiles, nods, or simple acknowledgements of presence—they do make a difference.