I am an introvert – What we called “shy” in my childhood. I realize this may be news to some. I’ve been known to hop on one of my many soapboxes and dominate a conversation. But if I spot someone I know, say at the mall, and I think they haven’t seen me, my first, and sometimes second instinct, is to duck into a store to avoid a conversation. I know, not a great trait in a pastor. But there you go. I’m an introvert at heart.
Then I read Barbara Fredrickson‘s book “Love 2.0.”
And then I went running, and on my way back, passed a neighbor walking her dog. Of course, my first instinct was to wave cheerfully and keep on going. Especially because my past interactions with her hadn’t been fun. Her black poodle was very classy, and proper, and obedient. Her comments about our rascally, scruffy, decidedly less obedient rescued cock-a-poo were, shall we say, haughty. Even though we took the same yoga class, I knew I hadn’t really endeared myself to her. So lots of reasons to keep on running.
Then I thought, “Hmmm. Let’s try out Barbara Fredrickson’s theory, which is that to our biology and our brains, “love” is not the romantic Hollywood “happily-ever-after, but a fleeting emotion that connects us with another that can change our brain for the better. A nutrient we need much as a steady diet of healthy food and sleep. The science of emotion research shows that this positive connection affects our neurology and biology. When we connect,
1. We mirror one another’s gestures and non-verbal cues
2. Our biochemistry synchronizes (WILD!)
3. Our vision literally broadens so we see more (the opposite is true when we’re threatened or angry – Our field of vision shrinks)
4. We share in a moment of mutual care and concern that nourishes our brain and body.
(This is an extremely simplified take.)
Even though this wasn’t normally someone I would seek out for connection, I knew she had fallen and hurt her wrist last week, so that gave me something to ask her.
She was so genuinely touched at my concern and my care and that I would stop running just to ask her how she was doing – WOW! Barbara Fredrickson was right! I felt so good, as we connected!
Of course, she then asked if I was coming to her neighborhood gathering, and I explained I had a Sunday School class coming over at that time. The interaction turned a bit sour as I sensed she didn’t think this was a very good reason not to attend her event.
O well. I also know that in order for these moments to have lasting impact, I have to focus on the positive feelings our connection generated and really take in how good it felt. And let the good of the experience move me out of my comfortable and safe cocoon of introversion to actually notice and be kind to the people around me, strangers and friends alike. It’s good for their health; it’s good for my health.
So say something nice to the check-out clerk, or the dry cleaner, or your child’s teacher, or even your spouse. It’s good for you, body, brain, soul and mind.