By: Katherine Mason Young

Traveling for work I find myself in all sorts of social dynamics on any given day. Everyone is focused on their own stuff and we often feel crazy busy to boot. I recognize that while not everyone is going to be your best friend – perhaps nothing more than an acquaintance with whom you have a brief encounter – I do wonder, how do I, you, we want “show up in the world?” Given my profession, I always take note of those who stand out for being polite, or going the extra mile for someone they don’t know. But I am also astounded at how few people fall into this category. If it is the little things that mean a lot, how can we all just do a little more, each day? Doing so might just make a BIG difference in the way you see the world, and the way the world sees you.

I hope to be thoughtful, kind, colorful, funny, warm, comfortable and connected. Not just to the internet. Human connections give us purpose, and can often mean more than 100 “likes” in the cyber world. Some simple suggestions to experience better social connections with those around you:

Say “good morning” (or afternoon, evening, night). If our only exchange with those around us is to acknowledge them and make eye contact, that’s pretty good. Not to mention it shows you are a positive, social and warm human being. Or just simply say “hi”.

Be as helpful as possible…as often as possible. I know, I know, it’s hard. But is it really? Offer someone your seat, or just scoot over and make room, hold open the door, lend a hand, give others your attention, clean up after yourself (and others), smile, let others go ahead of you in line, donate your time. Or just simply make an effort to let people know you care.

Don’t just ‘accept’ or ‘respect’ our differences – appreciate them. If everyone thought the same, believed the same and acted the same, what a boring world this would be. As intellectuals, we are allowed to disagree. In fact, the conversations are much more interesting when we do! It demonstrates great strength of character to embrace our differences and realize that we can learn from one other, we can help one another and together our lives can be more enriched. We may disagree, but we don’t have to be disagreeable. While you are at it, stand up for others. If you see an injustice, speak up. Tell others you appreciate them and do more than make an effort – include everyone.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in New York City. I found it exhilarating to hear all the different languages being spoken, and to experience the sights, sounds and smells of so many different cultures mixed together on one tiny, crowded island. It is truly a celebration of what makes this country great. If you haven’t experienced it for yourself, make a weekend of it – and eat at Jing Fong Dim Sum in Chinatown – it’s a whole different world.

Speaking of NYC. Please Say “sorry, excuse me, may I please, pardon” (not all at the same time) and do it with a smile. When we omit the smile it somehow loses all effectiveness and can be perceived as aggressive. These simple, small words, phrases and gestures can often be the true mark of someone’s character. Studies show that it is actually physically easier to smile than it is to frown and that doing so makes you better looking too. Win, win.

Life is short. Be nice.

Learn more about Katherine Mason Young and her programs at campuspeak.com/katherine-mason-young