How to Make Strangers Feel Like Royalty

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“Make a difference in a stranger’s day with a smile and a nod. Nodding is like a mini version of bowing, and the recipient immediately feels the honor of it.”

Although I value personal space and solitary time, I’m a social person. No doubt about it. My nightly neighborhood walks with my husband usually wind up being shorter than we anticipate because I stop and talk to almost every neighbor we meet (especially if they have dogs).

But even when walking alone, running, or hiking, when I pass people I don’t know, I’m always inclined to give some kind of greeting, some kind of acknowledgment of their existence. For years, I would smile, but I never really felt it connected.

I would often find that the smile I would flash in the brief moment before we passed one another didn’t feel authentic. I felt it came out looking more like a disinterested smirk rather than a sincere grin. And rarely did it garner a response.

And so I started nodding. And it changed everything.

Now, when people are walking (or jogging) toward me, I make a point to look into their eyes and give a little nod of my head. Without fail, they nod back — often accompanied by a smile. Their smile ignites a smile in me — and lots of happy serotonins in my brain.

All of this happens within a couple of seconds, but it feels like a profound connection takes place that makes the recipient feel special. Important.

And why wouldn’t it? The head nod, after all, is like a mini version of a bow, and bowing — prevalent in many Asian cultures — is a gesture of respect, denoting deference and humility.

Demonstrating respect for others connects us to rather than separates us from our fellow humans, and just a simple nod of the head can make people feel honored and respected.

Try it next time you pass a stranger on the street. As they approach you, give a little nod. I bet you’ll receive one back, and I challenge you to repress a smile.

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