Earlier this week I was walking in a place I’m not familiar with when a tall and alternatively dressed male came sauntering round the bend in the opposite direction. Gulping, I suddenly realised I was in a potentially vulnerable situation. However, as he walked past he tipped his cap, grinned and said, “Good morning!” I smiled back and responded in kind. A microconnection!
We live in a world where connection’s almost revered as a concept. And yet we’re lonelier than ever. An Australian study last year by the Red Cross found one in four Australians feel lonely on at least a regular basis. That’s what makes microconnections even more important!
What IS a microconnection?
I think this connection we crave’s about helping us feel valuable as people. We want to feel affirmed in one big swoosh that we’re ok. However, any sense of connection often comes built up over many tiny experiences – a smile, a few shared words, a handshake or hug. And each one of those could be considered a microconnection.
A microconnection is really just a very short moment in time when you and another person both acknowledge your humanity. It can be in something as simple as an eye flick of recognition as you pass a person by or as complex as sitting with another as they weep. And it’s positivity researcher Barbara Fredrickson’s theory that they’re vitally important and we should notice them more.
Microconnections and love
In her 2013 book, Love 2.0 Fredrickson proposed (amongst other things) that these microconnections are the basis for love. Piled up together into many, many experiences of them, she’s probably right. Not the physical attraction stuff perhaps, but certainly the warm and stabilising love of good friends and family. After all, when you share a laugh, an eye roll or a simple hello or goodbye, you deposit into a long term experience another tiny bit of care.
Each microconnection we take up or let go, then, gains value not just for itself but for what it adds to the overall relationship account balance. So the more of them that happen, the stronger your relationship. If you’ve been wondering what you can do to improve things between you and another, deliberately adding a microconnection whenever you can’s a good place to start.
Microconnections with strangers
A short but noticeable sense of wellbeing’s also gained when we connect with people we don’t know. That’s what happened with the man on my walk. I didn’t have a clue who he was and I’ll probably never see him again, but the fact that he chose to connect briefly with me added to my sense of it being a good day. People who’re lonely ought to start looking up when they’re out and about! Because each person you see has potential to be good for you.
The man in the fruit shop, the woman on the bus, the couple walking the dog, the kids on their skateboards. You can see them as nobodies in your day, or you can see potential So offer a microconnection whenever you pass someone by. Those who take it up will benefit from the interaction, as will you. It doesn’t have to be deep or long, just keep it polite. Offer a smile or a kind word and keep on your way.
It’s in the eyes
Microconnection happens best when we eyeball each other. And I mean literally. You see me and I see you. In fact, it improves both our mood and our health then. Smiling generally comes a close second (read more about that in this post)! Ever since I did a short course a few years ago I’ve been wanting to write a post called ‘Get off the phone, out of your car and remove your sunnies!’ because that summed up what Fredrickson was saying. But the point remains; if you want to master this art of microconnection, you’re going to have to remember the concept. Make eye contact.
Unfortunately the opposite is also true – the more we eyeball our devices rather than people, the less capable of connecting we become. Yes, it’s proven. Our brains lose the relational wiring connections and it begins to feel awkward and hard to make even a microconnection. Remember, you shape your brain by what you pay attention to, so don’t be worried; make better choices. Use it or lose it applies to relationships too!
Microconnection and you
The concept of microconnection’s not a particularly difficult one to master. Which means the hardest part of this art’s whether we choose to take today’s idea and apply it in our lives. Where can you look to enhance your sense of connection this week? Pay attention to each microconnection you notice, and look for opportunities to have more. Why not give yourself a challenge and count how many you can fit into one day? It’ll add to your personal wellbeing. Remember, we all need microconnections, so you ‘ll help the world too by looking around and giving others a tiny bit of yourself.
Have a good one.