So many things can influence our mood. Music. Food. Weather. Color. Strangers. How many times have you been in a great mood and along comes someone you’ve never met – they say or do something and BAM…suddenly there’s a dark cloud and you’re in a funk. The dark cloud, of course, is metaphorical and stands for the any number of things that influence our moods. Today we’re talking about Strangers and just like the weather, we have no control over it…or them.
There is a scientific basis for how music, food, color & weather affect your mood, but strangers can affect your mood largely because of the way you already think. A lot is going on inside your head, and your brain and its complex processes are even manipulating your emotions. In other words, there’s way more behind that angry feeling than the car that just cut you off. Much is involved in interpreting emotional circumstances and crafting your responses to them, and your brain is affecting how you feel and how you respond to those feelings in ways you’re probably not even aware of.
It’s evolutionary. Emotions like fear serve to protect you from danger so you can survive to pass on your genes. The “fight-or-flight” response that primes your body to defend itself or run away from danger is also an emotional reaction. Emotions like love and lust give you the desire to reproduce. Strangers can affect your mood based on experiential history.
I give you “Sidewalk Chicken”.
“Sidewalk Chicken” is my Kryptonite to happiness. You may not know it as sidewalk chicken, but you’ve played it. The urban dictionary describes sidewalk chicken as this:
So you’re walking down the street (on the right, of course because that’s the proper sidewalk etiquette) and you can see one or two (sometimes more) people walking toward you. You want to avoid the “sidewalk dance” and pass easily and quietly, and even enjoy a greeting…even the “what’s up” head nod would be fine, but they don’t seem to adhere to the same sidewalk etiquette as you do, in fact they’re not even making eye contact. Sure, you can step aside, but in what direction…the dance begins and if there are two or more people, it appears your only option is to just get off the sidewalk.
Now, if you’re walking in a fairly rural or suburban neighborhood, one or two occasions isn’t going to send you into a tail spin, but if you’re in any kind of populated area you’re constantly stepping off the sidewalk to allow others to pass and your mood is going to sour fast.
The Question that is important to ask ourselves is “Why”….why do I feel this way when forced to step off the pavement for others to pass. The answer to this question is the cause for your mood change.
Just like “sidewalk chicken”, a driver that cuts you off in traffic and then gives you the finger – why did that make you angry? You don’t own this bad behavior…the stranger does. Yet still it can send your good mood right into a downward spiral.
Let’s stop giving other people (including strangers) all that power! If somebody gives you the middle finger while driving, smile back at them and give them the OK sign back. If you find yourself heading toward Sidewalk Chicken, assume positive intent and stay on your right side…smile at them and I dare you to get them to say hello. Don’t let somebody else’s bad day control the outcome of yours. If you have to deal with a grumpy person, kill them with kindness. Often times your unfounded happiness will make them realize how big of a jerk they are being.