Weak Social Ties
A recent article in Psychology Today addressed so-called weak social ties and their surprising importance to our emotional and physical health. Turns out that chatting with the mailman, being recognized in a favorite store, or even laughing with a stranger in line can improve your well-being. And, of course, you can be the one who acknowledges another person; you never know when you’re making a big difference for someone.
Shared kindness and conversation create a sense of community, which can be just as important to our health as the stronger social ties we have to family and close friends. Research shows that a wide and diverse range of weaker social ties improves satisfaction with life.
This became especially clear to me during the pandemic. Staying in touch with family and close friends, the primary and secondary circles, if you will, was hard enough that my tertiary circle of acquaintances narrowed rapidly. I sorely missed bumping into acquaintances on the street or at restaurants, and suggesting a get together. Keeping in touch with “once or twice a year” friends – former coworkers, fellow board members, old neighbors – was far more important than I realized, helping me feel connected to our community.
Even when traveling, small social interactions matter. The hotel clerk whom we asked about locked bikes blocking sidewalks, who told us you’re not a true Amsterdam-er until you’ve had your bike stolen. The woman whose boots I complimented, making the line for the restroom less tedious. The wine shop manager in St. Emilion who called around to find us a chateau tour during the off-season. The Lisbon restaurant that welcomed us back, sending us upstairs to their art gallery with free drinks while they prepped our table. Here’s a painting of Lisbon that brings back good memories.