Everybody Waves Back

You know the feeling of randomly reading something in a book and having no idea that you will be thinking of what you’ve read over and over again? Here’s something that’s currently living rent-free in my head.

I’ve been enjoying a book by Jessica Pan called Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come. It’s about Jessica’s experiences as an introvert trying to experience more of what extroverts experience naturally. In the book, she relates a story from her friend Nick about how “social life is governed by reciprocity.”

Here’s a story Nick shared with her:

“A few years ago, I was driving through a remote part of Ethiopia, and I kept passing all these mothers and children outside of their mud huts. Everybody I passed stared at me like I was dead: totally blank facial expressions. It was the most uncomfortable I’d ever felt in my life. But then it occurred to me, while I was sitting there: I was looking at them in exactly the same way they’re looking at me. So I started smiling and waving as I went by—and it was like I flipped a switch. As soon as I started smiling, waving, and looking friendly, they started waving from their windows, grinning at me, and running out of their houses to give me high fives. That’s the truth of the world, Jessica,” he says, casually full-naming me to let me know something big is coming. “Nobody waves—but everybody waves back.”

I have not stopped thinking of that line: “Nobody waves—but everybody waves back.”

The idea is that if we are willing to put ourselves out there first, willing to project warmth and openness and vulnerability, then we invite others to respond in kind. And the research shows that people will indeed respond accordingly. But so few people are willing to wave first.

But if everybody waves back, will we have the courage to wave first?

Nobody waves, but everybody waves back. @JessicaLPan Share on X

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co. https://linktr.ee/JeremyJernigan