A strange thing happened recently…
Having lived on our street for 2 years and met no-one, we suddenly made friends with three of our near neighbours in a week.
We were invited to a house party, and the street Christmas get-together, almost out of the blue.
How did we get so popular?
We have a small front yard and I’m ashamed to admit that until recently it was a disgrace.
We had a world class collection of dandelions and other weeds, two grotty old dustbins overflowing with rubbish and rotting old leaves strewn around.
Given the state of this, passers-by took this as an invitation to throw in their rubbish and bags of dog-doings.
Even the local foxes chose our garden to do their business.
You get the picture.
Time to Clean Up our Act
In November, we finally did something about it.
Picked out the weeds, cleared away the rubbish, painted the wall, put in some shiny new dustbins.
We even got ourselves a sparkling new window-box with lovely heathers and cyclomen.
Within a week, all our close neighbours stopped to introduce themselves to us – and to their parties.
We no longer get a shred of rubbish thrown in.
Even the foxes have abated (for now).
The Broken Window Theory
Our change in popularity seems attributable to the Broken Window theory.
This well documented phenomena is often cited as one of the key ways that Rudolph Guiliani helped to transform New York in the 1990s.
The theory is that the way an area is maintained affects how people treat it.
If you allow mess, damage and graffiti, people will take that as a green light to join in with the abuse.
If you keep somewhere spotless and well maintained, people are more likely to respect the space.
Our neighbours had clearly noticed our mess and made up their minds about us.
Yet within a week, they changed their mind.
Funnily, a week later, the houses on both sides both had new windowboxes of a very similar design (see photos).
The ultimate seal of approval!
Your own broken window effect
This episode reminded me that each of us creates our own broken window effect every day.
The way you carry yourself and the attitude you choose influence how people treat you.
The scary thing is how quickly we are judged.
The great news is how quickly things can change.
To win friends and influence people, take a minute to think about these questions:
What message are you sending to the world right now?
What attitude would you like to project to the world?
How would you like others to think about you?
What can you do differently to change how you show up?
It’s fun to revamp your personal front garden and you’ll see a real difference in the way the world responds to you.
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Photo credit - Nina Matthews Photography (Flickr Creative Commons)
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