Connectedness: (A + B) > C
Updated: Mar 18
We are, without a doubt, an interesting animal, we humans. Physically, we sports some pretty amazing differences from most other animals. We have an opposable thumb, which, in turn, allows us to do a huge variety of tasks with our upper limbs especially true because of our thinner, longer and straighter fingers that allow for fine motor skills. Though I’m sure you’ve come across notable exceptions, we are mostly naked and hairless and have tons of sweat glands. We wear shoes and clothing. We can blush. We have few young, tending to our helpless babes with meticulous care through an extended childhood. We are capable of building physical models, not just of buildings wherein we gain protection from the environment but also models of ideas and concepts. We are skilled at abstract thought (thinking of things that are not currently present) and symbolic thinking. We are capable of higher contemplation, and self-transformation. We have the ability to use forethought. We are capable of empathy.
We are also capable of horrific acts against one another. We can be deliberately mean-spirited and selfish. We can be moody, anxious, and neurotic. When tasked, we hoard our skills and knowledge so as to create “job-security.” We can categorize people, and view minorities and vulnerable as lesser. We are adept at taking pleasure in the distress of others, especially if we think they deserved it. In the same light, we believe in karma. We are vain and overconfident. We are often hypocrites. We are blind to the flaws of those we look up to, and we are known to follow those who claim leadership blindly and to a fault.
That all doesn’t make us sound very appealing, does it? Honestly, we are, though, because we are just as capable as positive acts of social connection: compassion, kindness, gratitude, generosity. It's so much about connecting with others and how important our social connections are to happiness.
In general, beyond introverts and extroverts, and friends, work colleagues, and acquaintances, there are two general kinds of people in your life. The first group are those that add to your life. These are the positive influences and loving people, those you love to see, and think about with warm thoughts when you are not together. These are the people you want more of in your life. They bring joy, calm, peace and effervescence to your day through a myriad of interactions. They offer support and console. They stick by you through the good times and the bad. They lend you a hairband when yours is hanging in your face. They tell you there is spinach between your teeth – but nicely and without it being a big deal. They are your community, and support system through whatever comes your way. Being with these people elevates your mood and your sense of being. You can count these people as blessings in your life.
These are often the kinds of people you include in your second family (the family you get to construct and choose each member, versus the family with which you are born). Beyond our spouses and our children, we also choose our families with the friendships we make. These people are often the ones we turn to when in pain or sorrow or laugh with when we find joy.
Especially overseas, where we often live across oceans from our biological families, it is vital to create a support system for ourselves. These are the people we turn to in moments of happiness and sadness, when we need social support and when we need companionship. When our day doesn’t go quite right, or when we have an emotional issue, we turn to our family.
The second type of people are those that contribute more to the negative parts of your life. These are the nay-sayers, those that require a great amount of effort and whose interactions leave you tired and worn. These are the people you want less of in your life. It really is this simple. You see a person from this group and feel tired and worn, emotionally drained. The people in this group may be pessimistic in nature and spend less time focused on others as they do themselves. They may complain more, or have frequent negative comments. Beyond that, though, what they do is weigh heavy: they will talk more, and listen less; they will ask more, and offer less; they will need more. And needing more from you, means that’s one more person you will feel as an obligation.
This second group of people are more like that negative description I gave before, aren’t they? Perhaps not necessarily mean-spirited but certainly quick to celebrate the vulnerabilities in others, and noticing – and pointing out – the distress and flaws of others.
This isn’t the kind of person I want to be. Or be around.
Let’s instead try to be more positive. We are just as capable at building others up, aren’t we? What if we tried to do just that? What if we spent energy on thinking positive thoughts about others? Here are a couple of suggestions that I give you that will completely change your outlook; if you give this an honest try, I promise it will.
Try this: deliberately focus on your reaction to other people. Most of the time, this is an automatic response on your part; your brain figures out if the person walking towards you is “friend,” “neutral,” or “foe.” Clearly, your response to the former and the latter will be very different; will you be happy to see them or run away in fear? For the neutral party, we can probably assume the individual will be irrelevant to you, and they will simply walk by. Except they don’t really. These are the ones we should be paying attention to. What does your mind tell you about that irrelevant person? Do they notice a particular characteristic (e.g. fat, thin, tall, scraggly, tired-looking)? Do you automatically jump to uncharitable thoughts? Why does this even matter? I’ll tell you: these thoughts start to permeate your attitude, and color your internal dialog. These negative thoughts start to dictate your actions. These thoughts start to be your M.O: I think negatively, so I act negatively. In turn, others start treating you negatively.
Well, that’s no fun.
What if, instead, when you see that neutral person, you bring a kind or positive thought into your mind? What if you did that for everyone you saw? What if you trained your mind to think the best of people, best for people … and the best for yourself? What if this positivity habit were as easy to adopt as your own as a few minutes of deliberate focus and thoughts?
Try this: when you are out and about or around a number of people, spend time – 10 minutes – deliberately thinking positive or kind thoughts about everyone you see. Do this deliberately for 10 minutes every day for a week. You will be surprised at how your self-dialogue and your frame of mind will improve and be more positive. You will be surprised at how much easier it will be, every day. And you will be surprised at how it will start to become an automatic thought process.
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