Issue 2 - The Wednesday Waffle

Hello there... or not?

In this week’s newsletter:

👋 Saying Hello in The Big City
Is saying “hi” to strangers still a thing? Was it ever a thing?

🏆 A Friendly Challenge
Time to put something in the calendar and prioritise the people you care about.

👂 Easy to Use Friendly Skills
A new series designed to help us be better friends / family members. We start with an underrated essential.

Hello there… or not?

Greetings Friends and welcome to this week’s Wednesday Waffle on a week that’s been uncharacteristically full of reflection.

I say uncharacteristically due to a relatively recent focus to not spend too much time looking back - something I’ve consciously worked on over the past decade, due to spending too much time doing so the decade prior.

SIDE NOTE: It was once explained to me that those who spend their time in the past tend to be depressed, and those that live too far into the future are often anxious. I’ve done both.

One such foray to my formative years came about on Friday, when I pulled in behind a parked car in a tight, leafy, suburban street to allow an approaching luxury SUV to thread through the tight gap first. Pre-empting a wave of gratitude and presuming the other car’s driver to be of sound mind, I lifted my right hand from the steering wheel and began to mouth “no worries”.

this left me embarrassed, upset, and angry – not at the other driver, but at myself

Me, in a moment

To my horror, I was sorely mistaken and there was no wave, thumbs up, or flashing of headlights forthcoming, and this left me embarrassed, upset, and angry – not at the other driver, but at myself. I’ve lived in the city long enough to know these acts of decency and community spirit aren’t assured.

The scene of the shunning

Growing up, I witnessed these kinds of gestures from my booster seat. If a car merged in front of us, I noticed the driver’s hand go up in gratitude. If our car did the same, my parents would respond in kind. So, when I became a Learner driver, I adopted this behaviour and followed it as though it were one of the road rules. Then in my thirties, as a pre-grumpy old man, believing gestures like this were pivotal to a functioning and selfless society, I was willing to campaign for it to be policed by a squadron of plain clothed traffic cops. But now I accept it as a lost cause.

I was willing to campaign for it to be policed by a squadron of plain clothed traffic cops

Me again, moments ago

The indignity of the situation triggered me though, and reminded me of a similarly common and relatively harmless snub yet no less disgusting affront I first noticed when moving to the metropolitan city of Melbourne. No, it’s not the countless ghostings I copped on the Hinge dating app, which while surprising (don’t these women know a good catch when they see one?), is accepted behaviour in impersonal online app jungles. What I’m actually referring to is a face to face systematic shunning that I cannot and will not condone – the constant ignoring of my “Hello” and accompanying head nod when walking by associates and strangers alike.

An actual picture from my old online dating profile

I distinctly remember on my first tram commute to work saying “Hi” to the driver. He blanked me, and my attempt to converse with him drew the attention of a few fellow travellers. I didn’t think much of it as he had a job to do, so no big deal.

Hours later, in my lunch break, I walked to get a roll and attempted to engage in eye contact with those sharing the sidewalk with me. Again, this was to no avail. In fact, many of them actively looked away. Still, it wasn’t until dusk that night when the gravity of the situation dawned on me.

About half way into unsuccessfully smiling and helloing my way around the famous Princes Park walking track, with the number of unreciprocated greetings reaching triple figures, I worked out I wasn’t in Kansas the country anymore. It was a lonely realisation. But to this day, I haven’t stopped trying.

In the beginning, it was hard to unlearn such a well-formed habit. As an avid walker the situation would arise regularly, and like a puppy desperate to be loved, I’d glance across and notice these fellow walkers look away. The irony being that people with dogs are inundated with willing conversation participants. However, there’s no love for a man in his forties, enjoying a leisurely stroll with his AirPods in.

As I got older, the habit faded, but I kept on, more as a matter of principle, but nothing changed. I only get the occasional bone thrown my way. (Maybe I should invest in a hound of my own). So recently, after initially thinking I was the problem, then everyone else was the problem, I’ve started to wonder what is the problem? Why does no one want to say “hello” anymore?

I have my suspicions, and welcome your theories too. So far, here’s what I’ve come up with.

Females are more fearful of men now.

It’s not hard to work out how we got here. The news reports of men doing horrible things to women are a weekly event, and that doesn’t take into account all of the other incidents that go unreported.

Anecdotally, every partner I’ve had has spoken of scary and unpleasant situations they’ve been subjected to, in broad daylight, by some cretinous male. While sad, I understand why the gals are being cautious.

In truth, when walking, I’m reluctant to try and engage with women around my age for this very reason - fully expecting them to not want to interact. Interestingly, the elder ladies tend to be the most receptive to a hello.

While I believe this premise is a contributing factor, the snubs I receive aren’t limited to one sex, so there must be other things at play also. 

A country upbringing fostered a greater sense of community.

Being from a relatively decent sized country town, I grew up feeling pretty safe in the streets surrounding our home. It wasn’t uncommon to know families that lived near by, so you’d regularly see familiar faces of all ages, and greet them with a “Hi”.

They’d always deliver a pleasantry back, and this simple exchange made everyone feel a small connection to their fellow human as a consequence.

Having not grown up in the inner city, I don’t know if that was the case there, but I tend to think it may not have been quite the same.

Man finding a fun new way to not say Hello to me

Times have changed. 

I grew up in a different age and have lived almost half my life either side of the millennium.

In that time there’s been the advent of the internet, a couple of wars, and a pandemic, which initially seemed to restore a sense of civic duty. But it was short lived thanks to misinformation, mistakes, and a growing spread of misanthropy on social media (another of the big changes of the past two decades).

Is it simply that what's happening on people’s smartphones is so entertaining, that interacting with an actual human is too passe to participate in? Or have these inventions led to a decline in interpersonal skills? It’s possible.

these little interactions can mean a lot to the right person

Me - very profoundly

Whatever the reason(s), I’ve gotten used to it and no longer feel lonely when I’m “left on read” in real life. But I still look to say hello whenever the opportunity arises, because these little interactions can mean a lot to the right person. Without them, the shared experience of what it means to be human erodes, and we might as well be rigged up to an oculus rift.

So “Hello Friends” and Happy Wednesday - say Hi to a stranger for me.

If you have thoughts on this topic, I’d love to hear them - email [email protected]

Friends from the Animal World

This Week’s Friendly Challenge

Have you sent off your short Wednesday Waffle video to your friends yet? If not, hop to it! (Damn, should’ve used that line at Easter.)

This week we’re stepping things up and asking you to lock in plans with your pal(s). It might be a movie, coffee, dinner, or night out. Whatever! Just book it in, because making plans and catching up with friends makes the heart sing.

I get that everyone’s busy, so that’s the beauty of planning ahead and prioritising connecting. Once it’s in the calendar, you’re half way there. Then protect the date as best as you can.

Let me know how you go at [email protected]

The undisputed king of calendars

Easy to Use Friend Skills

This series is designed to help us be better friends and family members via a series of easy to implement skills that enhance our collective friendliness.

Today we kick things off with what I believe is the most underestimated characteristic of every good friend.

#1 - Listen / Be a Good Listener 👂

“We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak”

If you haven’t heard this quote before, chances are you weren’t listening. The conundrum being, the exact people who need to hear this are probably talking over the person saying it.

It immediately resonated with me, but I later realised I’d missed an important part. See, I always felt like I was quite good at listening, being more than happy to sit back (well technically, lean in, like any good listener) and hear what people said. My problem, I learned, was that I wouldn’t leave it there.

just because someone is telling you something, they’re not giving you an open invitation to let it rip

Me - later on 

For me, them no longer talking was my cue to unleash what I thought about their situation, and how they could best solve it. Thanks to a psychologist partner, I now realise just because someone is telling you something, they’re not giving you an open invitation to let it rip.

Embarrassingly, I had been doing this a lot, and often in a way that didn’t validate my friend’s / family member’s feelings, and usually involved suggesting overly simplified solutions.

I was not, in fact, a good “listener” friend, but instead an, at times, fairly frustrating “fixer” friend.

Me when my friend’s vent about their boss

I’m not the only one, though, and as far as friendly faux pas go, this comes from the right place. I hate to see the people I care about struggling, so naturally want to solve their problems. But most of the time, this is not what the person wants or needs. They could be simply looking to vent, get something off their chest, and be told they’re not crazy.

Now, having learned the error of my ways, and realising my “fixer” tendencies, I’m trying to be a better listener.

Here’s some friendly tips to help us all do that:

  • Think about what message your body language is sending.

  • Listen to understand. Not just wait your turn to talk.

  • Silence is OK. Sometimes just being there is enough.

  • Provide a safe space. Withhold judgement. 

Next time someone vents to you, give these a try.

From TV show The Bear (before it jumped the shark)

Be a Friend and Do Me a Solid!

If you’re enjoying The Wednesday Waffle, please share it with your friends, or even better - sign them up here.

I see this as a community that’s making the world that little bit friendlier, so the more people we have helping us do that, the better. I’d be so appreciative.

To send feedback, or to let me know how you think The Wednesday Waffle could be even better, email [email protected] - I’d love to hear from you.

Until next Wednesday, keep waffling!