The Power of a Hello
We often overlook the power of social interaction and the relationships we have with others. The social and emotional aspects of each human connection is unique and varies depending on the individuals involved. For example, a person may have a strong relationship with their sibling and engage with them on a daily basis. The relationship may foster trust, honesty, and understanding of one another; it may serve the purpose of providing each individual with emotional support, someone to enjoy activities with, and someone to help make difficult decisions. Thus, this relationship is a significant part of the individual’s life in that it serves multiple purposes and has a considerable impact on the person’s mood, actions, and thoughts.
Some interpersonal connections may be more transient or less stable. For example, a student may have a relationship with their bus driver; they see each other most mornings and afternoons and occasionally engage in small talk, however, there is not much more to their relationship outside of this interaction. Similarly, two individuals may frequently encounter each other when going on walks around the same neighborhood; or someone may have frequent interactions with a cashier at the grocery store they shop at periodically. We also sometimes have isolated social connections with people whom we have never met before and will likely never see again. For example, there are times we end up conversing with the person in front of us on the line at Starbucks, or with the person sitting next to us in the nail salon, or with the individual waiting at the same bus stop we are at. While these connections may not be well-established or long-lasting relationships, they can still be rewarding and impactful.
There are various types of relationships and social connections we have with others; they can vary based on length, strength, purpose. Regardless of these variations, I think it is important to acknowledge the significance that social interaction has on daily life. In living through COVID, I think many more people have come to realize that social interaction is often taken for granted. After many have lived in isolation for so long, we see that a wave from our neighbor across the street, a small conversation with the crossing guard, or a game of soccer in gym class are things that have impacted and enriched our daily lives. Interacting with others, whether it be daily or infrequently, allows us to fully enjoy life and has the ability to change the course of our day and enhance our mood.
One reason why it is important to acknowledge the effect these social interactions have on us is because we can often get caught up in our own thoughts and daily responsibilities, causing us to feel overwhelmed or overworked. As such, we can forget about the world around us and end up spending the whole day alone while trying to perfect one homework assignment, ruminating over one mistake we made, or worrying about some future event that may or may not even happen. When we find ourselves in these situations, I think it is important to find someone else to engage with. Call a friend. Talk with a relative. Take a walk around the neighborhood or, if you are able, a trip to the grocery store just to get out and see other people.
Since the pandemic, much of society has transitioned to online communication and remote endeavors. Of course this is great in some aspects and makes certain processes work more effectively while keeping people safe. However, I think it is important that we remember not to let technological communication completely replace social bonding, interpersonal relationships, and in-person encounters with others. Social interaction enables the opportunity to learn from others, gain a new perspective on various situations, and can help us focus on our life goals and values in effective ways. Sometimes all it takes is a simple, “hello” from someone in passing to help bring us back to reality, remind us to let the little things go, and to enjoy the small moments life has to offer.