As you probably know by now, on Wednesday the 28th of March I took part in the global Pay it Forward Flashmob here in London.
The day was fantastic…it was gorgeous sunshine, I was with a group of fantastic people and we were passing on random acts of kindness…what more could you ask for on a Wednesday afternoon?
On the whole, the experience was incredibly positive. There were some lovely stories about people who seemed genuinely touched by the concept and were keen to continue it onward.
But today I wanted to share something that really saddened me about the experience.
Because there I was, in the middle of London, wanting to do something small, random and kind for a stranger…but many of the strangers who I came across quite simply didn’t want to know.
As anyone who knows me knows…I’m not exactly a scary person. It’s very rare that I don’t have a smile on my face, and (as my sister will testify) people have a tendency of starting random conversations with me when I’m out and about (probably because they know that I’ll talk back to them!)
But as soon as you even appeared to move in the general direction of a stranger in London, something very peculiar happens.
Sometimes without looking at you, always without listening to you and occasionally with a hand being put up in front of you…you are instantly dismissed.
In this situation, there are several things that take place.
All of these people avoid eye contact with you.
Some just say “No”
Some are kind enough to add a “Thank you” at the end.
Some actively run away.
Some even swear at you (as was the experience of one person in our group).
It never occurred to me that doing something nice for another human being could be so challenging!
Everyone was looking for the catch, the sale, the pitch.
What was sad was that there wasn’t one….and those people ended up missing out on something potentially life-changing because they assumed that it wasn’t for them.
Well as my Dad always used to say to me, to Assume is to make an “Ass” of “u” & “me”…
The Pay It Forward experience is a fantastic idea….it’s all about spreading a ripple of genuine human kindness around the world, expecting nothing in return other than for the recipient to pass it on to another.
But if people aren’t prepared to receive, then how can it work?
…and what’s sad is that this doesn’t just apply to strangers on the street.
How many times do we say “I’m fine” when someone offers us help? How often do we refuse to ask for help because we want to prove that we can do it all ourselves?
As women we are so good at giving to the people around us…but we aren’t quite so good at receiving in return.
Femininity is all about flow. It’s about giving AND receiving…and if you block yourself from receiving, you’re blocking this flow.
The thing is, if we react and say ‘no’ before we’ve even stopped to hear what the other person has to say, we’ll never get the opportunity to receive.
Instantly saying no is a habit that we’ve adopted over time…and it’s one that would benefit us to break.
So the next someone approaches you to offer something (whether that’s on the street, at work or in your personal life), I implore you to remember to be a S.T.A.R.
– S top – Stop before you react to the situation.
– T hink – Think about what they’ve said and how you would like to respond.
– A cknowledge – Acknowledge what they’ve said.
– R espond – Respond to what they’ve said.
If what they are speaking about is genuinely not of interest to you, simply say something along the lines of “I appreciate what you’re doing, but I’m not interested thank you”. If you’ve listened to what they had to say and are completely honest, that’s the end of the conversation…but at least you’ve been polite about it.
Remember to be kind. They might be doing what they’re doing because it’s their job. They might want to share something with you that is of great importance to them, and so they think if might be of importance to you too. They might have a gift to give you.
If you don’t stop for a moment and listen, not only might you miss out on something great, but you might also stop someone else from being able to share a gift.
…and trust me, there is nothing more frustrating than trying to do something nice for someone else, and being rebuffed without even being heard.
If you are interested, then allow yourself to receive graciously…you’ll feel better for it, and you’ll allow someone else the pleasure of giving something to you.
Tomorrow is international Pay it forward day…so let’s make Paying it Forward a happier experience, together.
Pay It Forward is a really special idea…
…But in order for Pay It Forward to work….we must also be prepared to Receive It Forward too.