The other day I saw a Harley Davidson commercial that showed people going about their everyday lives as normal except for one major change – they were all enclosed in individual cages. Along comes a man riding on a Harley Davidson motorcycle and he is the only one not stuck in a cage. I found the commercial entertaining and it made me think. Now, I’m not quite ready to go out and buy a motorcycle, but the commercial did speak to me in another way.
What struck me about this commercial was the part about being stuck in a cage. I feel that this isn’t far from the truth and that people become more and more like this every day. Even when we are out in public, we retreat inside our own little cages. It seems that most of us would rather stand quietly than reach out and be friendly to those around us. People get so caught up checking email on their Smartphone (or playing Angry Birds), reading the news, or listening to their iPods, that they don’t interact with those around them. The crazy thing about this is that no one puts us into these cages except for ourselves. We choose to be in these cages instead of reaching out and striking up a conversation with those around us.
One of the primary purposes of a fraternity is to cultivate social development and make friends. I truly think that as members of Phi Delta Theta we have the duty to break out of our cage and interact with those around us. I’m not saying that it will be easy, but if we focus on being a little more social every day we can gradually break out of our cages. Here are three simple ways that can make you more social every day.
1. Have a conversation with the individual who serves you coffee. Many of us enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the morning and there is usually a very pleasant person that serves that coffee to you and he/she is contractually obligated to be nice. Striking up a conversation with this person should be fairly simple. Tomorrow, go beyond the “I’ll have a small coffee” and ask him/her about their day. Simple enough right? Now, the kicker…listen to his/her response and respond appropriately. You could have a nice 2-3 minute conversation while your coffee is being prepared.
2. Say hello to the person next to you at the crosswalk. I don’t know about you, but I like to walk to places whenever possible. During these walks, I often stop at an intersection waiting for the light to change. Equally as often, there is someone stopped there with me. Usually this time is spent gazing at the clouds, checking my watch or urgently looking at something on my cell phone. But, what if we took that time to greet the person next to us? Say hello, ask them how their day is going or even resort to everyone’s favorite small talk topic…the weather. These conversations only have to be awkward if you make them so. Be pleasant but brief and go about the rest of your day.
3. Sit next to a stranger at the library/student union/cafeteria (or anywhere else for that matter.) It seems that people spend all of their time circling these locations looking for an unoccupied table rather than sitting down next to someone they don’t know. Take a chance, ask them if it’s alright to sit next to them and pull up a chair. Once you’re seated, introduce yourself and ask some sort of conversation starting question.
So, now you are ready to go. Take the first step and start breaking down that cage. For those of you who think this just isn’t feasible to do, I’m going to practice what I preach. I have challenged myself to “walk the talk” and for the next 30 days I am committing myself to have a conversation with a total stranger every day. You can read about it and follow my progress on Facebook here. I plan to post daily updates about my personal challenge. I invite you to push yourself to try something similar. So go ahead, break out of your cage, be a Harley.