Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Is friendliness such a good thing?

The first thing my kids and I noticed being back in the USA for the summer vacation is that people here are so friendly. People on the street actually say hello and smile. They are courteous at four-way stop signs (something you would never see in Switzerland).

One day, while I was driving around a full parking lot, I was shocked when a woman going in the opposite direction pointed to her left and said: "There's a spot available over there."

And then, the checkout guy at Stop & Shop asked my Swiss friend and I what language we were speaking (German). "Cool! I've always wanted to go to Switzerland," he said. My Swiss friend looked at me with amazement.

I think there are advantages to friendliness. It makes people feel good. It creates a pleasant atmosphere. It affirms others. People are attracted to smiling and kind people.

There's a downside, however, and I am beginning to understand why the Swiss are considered to be so aloof and--hence--unfriendly.

I think it's because they want freedom. They want to be free of obligation, free to have their own perception of things, free to have their thoughts and actions be impartial. They want to be free to keep their focus, commitment, creativity and time. They want to be free of bad habits.

Let's face it. Switzerland is known for its high quality workforce. And the professionals I have come in contact with in Switzerland would definitely be considered aloof according to American standards.

Perhaps, these professionals need to be aloof in order to provide objective and quality service.

Perhaps, it is exactly this bit of Swiss wisdom, which makes them free of the burden of obligation and  less influenced by clients' opinions and feelings.

I guess my goal would be to be friendly and aloof at the same time... ;-)

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