02.03.2024

Why you SHOULD say ‘hello’ to your bus driver

Saying ‘hello’ to your bus driver boosts their wellbeing – but only one in five of us do it, according to a report. New data suggests that just 23 per cent of people acknowledge their bus driver when boarding, and less than one in 10 do so when alighting.

But these small interactions could make your driver happier, experts say.

Dozens of London bus drivers who were interviewed as part of the research said passengers greeting them with ‘good morning’ or ‘thank you’ have a positive impact on their happiness and job satisfaction.

They said it made them feel ‘respected’, ‘seen’ and ‘appreciated’.

London bus drivers who were interviewed as part of the research said passengers greeting them with ‘good morning’ or ‘thank you’ have a positive impact on their happiness and job satisfaction

London bus drivers who were interviewed as part of the research said passengers greeting them with ¿good morning¿ or ¿thank you¿ have a positive impact on their happiness and job satisfaction

A pilot project, run by a team of psychologists from the University of Sussex along with Transport for London (TFL), showed that installing simple signs nudging people to greet their bus driver prompted a 7 per cent increase in the behaviour.

One of the signs asked: ‘Who can say ‘hello’ first?’, while another said: ‘A ‘thanks’ or ‘hey’ can make my day.’

The signs were installed on the driver cab door and exit doors on over 150 buses across Hammersmith and led to 30 per cent of passengers greeting the driver, compared to 23 per cent on buses without signs.

This could equate to 140 million more potential interactions across a year, the researchers said.

One bus driver, who has been in the job for 14 years, said: ‘It seems like something small but if a person, especially a young person, hops on my bus and says ‘thanks driver’, it can change my whole mood.

‘It’s like they’re saying ‘I see you, I appreciate you’ – if everyone said hello and thank you, well that would be something really special.’

Dr Gillian Sandstrom, Senior Lecturer in the Psychology of Kindness at the University of Sussex, said: ‘These results are really exciting because a growing body of research shows that micro-interactions like these are more well-received, and more meaningful than most of us realise.

‘The fact that a simple nudge, in the form of a sticker on the bus, was enough to encourage people to greet the driver suggests to me that people want to reach out and connect with others, but sometimes feel like they can’t or shouldn’t.’

Neighbourly Lab – a social connection enterprise who were involved with the trial – now plan to roll the intervention out across wider bus networks.

Grainne O’Dwyer, a senior programme manager from Neighbourly Lab, said: ‘This research makes an exciting contribution to our understanding around the value of small, daily interactions.

‘The positive impact that something as small as a «hello» or «thank you» can make for our brilliant bus drivers demonstrates the power of these small actions.

‘It argues the case for looking up from your phone, even briefly, and giving a friendly smile or greeting when on your daily commute, grabbing your daily coffee or grabbing a few bits from the shop.’

‘Humans have a fundamental need to belong – we suffer emotionally and physically when we feel disconnected from other people’, Dr Sandstrom told the Daily Mail.

‘We primarily fill that need through our relationships, but the good news is that close relationships aren’t the only source of feelings of connection.

‘Minimal social interactions with people like a regular bus driver or favourite barista at the coffee shop can make a big difference in helping us feel connected – like we are woven into the social fabric of our community.

‘And we can help others feel connected by having a little chat, saying hello, or simply smiling and making eye contact with the bin person, shop assistant etc. We tend to underestimate how much of a difference these small moments of civility and human connection can make to others.

‘I think this study gently reminds us to pay attention and take some of those everyday opportunities for micro-interactions that make us and others feel good, and more human.’

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