Thursday, March 4, 2010

Untrusted Kindness with Doors

The way I see it, the average person would never trust anyone to catch them.

You know those “trust building” seminars where you're supposed to fall backwards into the arms of another person and you have to “trust” they will catch you? They've always been the butt of jokes on sit-coms and comedy shows for years where the person catching gets distracted and fails to catch the trusting person falling backwards. Makes for funny television, but I wonder if most people feel that they can't rely on someone else to show some kindness and not let them fall?

Take the simple act of holding a door open for someone. Next time you do that, take note in the reaction of the person you're holding the door open for. I'm not talking about if they say “thank you” or not - it's not a verbal observation, it's physical. How many of those people, regardless of how far open you hold the door, will push the door open more and react as if you weren't even there holding the door? Almost everyone I've ever held the door open for, both men and women, have either put their hand on the door or have pushed it back further. I would say this happens to 95-97% of the times I show this act of kindness – except for a few women and the odd romping child running through the doorway.

The only explanation I can come up with is that these people don't trust that I'll keep holding the door until they're safely through the doorway. It's as if they're protecting themselves from me letting go of the door and having the door hit them before they go through. Have we become so distrusting in our society that we can't even trust that someone can hold a door open for us? Are we so much in a rush and so preoccupied with our lives that we can't take 60 seconds or two minutes to hold a door open for someone until they're safely through the doorway?

To me, it's a basic act of civility. The kind of kindness that is built from being in an organized, advanced civilized society. Of all the years of evolution, have we forgotten basic decency? The next time you hold the door open for someone, just reassure them, “don't worry, I will hold the door until you're through.” I'm sure they'll still put their hand on the door or even push it open more, but you might get a couple of them to stop putting their hands up to the door and just walk through.

Reassure them that you'll catch them when they fall.

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