Attaboy and Awkward High Fives

This coming Sunday, there is a race in the Kansas City area called “Brew to Brew”. It’s a hardcore race, spanning the 44 miles between Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City, MO and Free State Brewery in Lawrence, Kansas.

Most sane people in this race form teams and chop up the 44 miles into bite-sized chunks of 3-6 miles.

Not for a couple of our friends. They’re running the entire thing. They’ll definitely be ready for a cold one at the end of that stretch.

The whole 44 mile race thing has never appealed to me, maybe it will someday. For now though, I do enjoy running. But more so the bite-sized chunks, not the long endurance runs.


I do my best to run 3-4 miles at a time, 2-3 times a week. Nothing crazy but enough to stay relatively healthy and burn enough calories to refill with donuts and cheeseburgers on “Sweet Saturday” as our kids call it.

I’ve noticed a pretty incredible thing happen when I’m out on these short runs. Let me explain.

Brooke makes fun of me for this, but I’ll share the story anyway. A few years ago, I was out on a run. It was before work, the sun was still trying to poke through and there weren’t many people out and about.

I was on the back end of my run, with about a mile left, when I came to the final right turn before I hit the home stretch.

When I looked up to turn the corner, an older man was approaching the same turn. He was in ridiculous shape as evidenced by his shirtless figure. But he was probably nearing 70.

We were making our turns at the same time and there wasn’t a ton of room. I did the polite thing to my elder runner and took a step into the grass so he had more space.

I also did the weird but instinctual thing of yelling “attaboy” to him and raising my hand for an awkward high five as we both ran past each other.

He smiled, obliged and slapped my sweaty outstretched hand.

I told Brooke the story when I got home and she was embarrassed for me. Rightly so, I am known for being a bit random and awkward in public.

But this event led me to start noticing how similar groups of people interact with each other in public.

When a bicycler meets another on the street, they wave. When a Harley rider encounters another, they do the one finger raised off the handlebar thing. When a runner sees another runner on the same trail or road, they head-nod or, in my case, awkwardly high five.

Even if they’re complete strangers, especially if they’re complete strangers.

Here’s the thing about that tendency. We’re all looking for a place to belong, a tribe to call ours, a story to be a part of.

Harley riders typically don’t tip their fingers to runners. Bicyclers don’t wave to a mom pushing a stroller. Jeep owners don’t say what’s up to people driving BMWs.

But within those little groups, we find our place.

In his book Influence, Dr. Robert Cialdini outlines six main principles to influence people. One of those principles is to become likeable.

Sure, some people are likeable by nature, but he argues that to truly influence people, and more importantly to impact them, we need to develop our likeable muscles.

He unpacks the power of finding one simple thing in common with those around you. It’s why runners, regardless of whatever demographic you slice, wave to each other. It’s what they have in common.

We want someone to say attaboy and give us a high five. We want to feel like this effort we’re making is worth it. We want to believe that we’re not alone.

So if you see me running one morning, watch out, I may high five you.

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