Welcome to episode eight. My experiences over the last week have caused me to reflect on human connection.
Last Tuesday, I graduated from my MAPP (MSc in Applied Positive Psychology). Of course, I was excited and proud to finally attend the ceremony and receive the bit of paper that confirms I’ve done it, but the most exhilarating part about the day and evening was connection. My husband took the day off work, mum flew over from Luxembourg, my eldest daughter came over for dinner the night before, and my youngest was gutted she couldn’t take time out from Uni, but sent me so much love via WhatsApp messages I could almost feel the squeezy hugs! Over the duration of my course, I have connected – and forged lasting strong friendships – with some amazing people. We have shared life’s brilliantly great, everyday mundane and terrifyingly awful experiences. And last Tuesday, we celebrated our achievements together. It was joyous!
My MAPP friends and I celebrating our graduation.
Photo credit: www.russgostelow.com/
Then, on Thursday, I presented a Positive Education workshop at the IPEN (International Positive Education Network) Ultimate Wellbeing in Education Conference in London. During the workshop, I introduced an activity I’d previously done as part of the Positive and Character Education workshop my RWS colleague Elizabeth Wright and I ran with teachers from the LEO Academy Trust we are supporting through their Action Research Projects.
It’s a simple enough activity: I ask participants to walk around the room and talk to at least two people and find at least three things they have in common with each other. It was particularly moving for me to do this after hearing Kim Leadbeater, sister of the murdered MP Jo Cox, poignantly remind us in her brilliant keynote of Jo Cox’s maiden speech in Parliament, in which she said that we “have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.
Teachers have told me they hadn’t realised they didn’t know really basic things about people they work with every day, and this activity allowed them to connect on a personal level. You don’t need to share intimate details about your life to connect with another human being, but just taking the time to talk to each other beyond “hello / good morning” and work-related conversations is a worthwhile endeavour.
During the conference’s lunch break, I was tempted to take some time out and sit by myself, catching up with urgent e-mails, but I was there to connect with others, so when I saw a stranger sitting by herself, I asked if I could join her. We had a fantastic conversation and both left saying how glad we were to have connected! The conference also gave me the opportunity to catch up with people I either see rarely or knew but hadn’t met in person yet. I left at the end of the day feeling tired but replenished.
For fascinating insights about the science of connection, I highly recommend the book “Social: Why our brains are wired to connect” by Matthew Lieberman. Lieberman states that “what all mammalian infants … really need from the moment of birth is a caregiver who is committed to making sure that the infant’s biological needs are met. If this is true, then Maslow had it wrong.” He goes on to say that “our biology is built to thirst for connection because it is linked to our most basic survival needs.” (p.43)
So this week I invite you to look after your most basic survival need for human connection. Strike up a conversation with a stranger, have a more in-depth conversation with a colleague, smile at people, make eye contact and truly connect. Your week will be better for it! As always, I welcome your comments and would love to know how you’ve implemented this week’s tip and what the results have been.
Until we speak again, For Flourishing’s Sake, have a great week!