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How often do we find ourselves in that oh-so-awkward situation where we are in an elevator with a stranger? We automatically reach for the safety net of our smartphones in order to look busy and eliminate any possible impression that we are up for a chat.

Why is this so?

Are we too embarrassed, scared, intimidated, or arrogant to simply smile or say hello? Is it a fear of rejection that’s driving us? Or do we merely assume that the other person doesn’t want to talk? Are we wrongly predicting that the interaction may foster negative results?

Nicholas Eply is a Professor of Behavioural Science in the US who conducts research on social cognition, perspective taking, and intuitive human judgment. He discovered people expect that fewer than half of the strangers out there want to actually talk. Studies revealed that quite the opposite is in fact true, and contrary to expectations, people are in fact happier after a conversation with a stranger. He suspects that it is this fundamental misunderstanding of others’ interest which might explain why we choose to remain in awkward silence rather than chance it with a friendly greeting.

The reality is, humans crave interaction with others more than we rarely choose to admit it or even realise it at all. Unfortunately, we often fail to perceive the potential impact that a simple smile or a cheerful hello could have on another person’s day, week, or even year. And on ourselves at the same time for that matter.

So our challenge to you this week is as follows: dissolve your assumptions, fight all intimidation and conquer your fear once and for all…greet your fellow human being opposite you in the elevator. It can’t hurt, can it?