Apparently, my clap is hugely irritating.
I have a method which requires some effort but guarantees a good, clear, loud, that-was-bloody-fantastic sound of appreciation. But occasionally, when I clap along to music in my own kitchen – my current favourite is cheesy 80s tracks on MTV Classic (I know, who does that, but come on, we’re all a bit weird), my family yell “Nooooooooooo!” grimacing dramatically and plugging their ears. Usually I stop clapping but continue doing something equally stupid but less noisy. Like I said, we’re all weird. And who can resist Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun? It’s all in the title.
Along with the annoying sound, I am compelled to use this clap as much as possible.
You know that moment when someone has addressed a large group of people, they round off their speech, stand and smile, sometimes nervously, usually in anticipation, and nothing happens? Crickets. Tumbleweeds. I die a little bit inside. I think possibly no-one likes being the first person to clap. Kiwis are a bit nervous about looking stupid. What if the person hasn’t finished speaking? What if no-one else claps? What if everyone thinks I’m a dick? Or maybe people just don’t give a shit. I prefer to think it’s one of the first three.
Anyway, this doesn’t happen often on my watch: I jump in, boots and all, with my irritatingly loud clap, and sometimes people jump at the sound, usually everyone joins in and it’s all okay. I can breathe again. I also have a very robust but irritating “Wooooooo!” which I reserve for concerts. I know how appreciated they are: I’ve performed on stage once or twice in my life and have been the happy recipient of a woo or two. You really can’t beat a good woo.
Tell Me More
Listening – proper, actual listening – is also a form of appreciation. And it’s harder than it sounds. Focus is a skill required now more than ever, possibly because it’s harder than ever to achieve. If we’re lucky, we all know someone who has that ability to make you feel heard: they’re not formulating their response as you provide yours, they’re fully listening to what you have to say, even when there’s noise all around. We all know people who are plainly waiting for their chance to jump in with their view. I think we all do it sometimes.
My sister had the gift of listening: we could be in a room full of people clamouring to say their piece, and if you were talking, she’d hold your gaze, nod encouragingly and just by the look in her eyes you knew she was thinking ‘keep going, I’m interested’. She had three daughters and this skill was massively useful when they all had something to say. She used to say her (second) favourite three little words were “tell me more”. And listening isn’t just good for the speaker: when we listen we learn stuff. Win-win.
On the Road
Does anyone else get warm-and-fuzzies when bus drivers turn on their hazard lights to thank you for letting them in? Or when the person who’s just given way for you raises their hand in response to you raising yours? Driving seems to heighten everything. I can be filled with gratitude and goodwill one minute, but then BOOM! Someone cuts me off and it’s a different story completely. Another blog for another time, but suffice to say it’s not all please-and-thankyou on my way to work.
The Gratitude Bandwagon
I know. We’re bombarded with gratitude advice these days. It’s supposed to improve physical health, improve mental health, improve sleep, reduce aggression, increase empathy, yada yada yada. And I also know that I’m writing this from an extremely lucky position, relatively speaking. Gratitude should abound, right?
Well, I gotta tell ya, I’m not always grateful. Waking up on the wrong side of the bed / the dog pissing on the carpet overnight (she’s old and incontinent, a glimpse into my future perhaps?) / running out of coffee / bad traffic on my way to work / insert any number of relatively insignificant events here / can put me way below the requisite gratitude benchmark. Is that wrong? No, I think it’s human.
But I am making an effort to remember all the things I’m grateful for. Sometimes I even write them down. Perspective is a great thing, especially when you zoom that perspective out on a global level. We’re doing okay. We’re doing more than okay.
I think that deserves a very loud round of applause.