Are you a social butterfly or a wallflower? Do you jump at the chance to hang out with friends or do you feel uneasy at the thought of a social get together?
The world is made up of introverts, extroverts, and all combinations in between. No matter which best describes you, it’s important to remember, as John Donne said, “No man is an island” (and of course, no woman is an island either!). We are not meant to live alone, but to flourish as a result of connecting with others. In fact, in early civilizations, living solo wasn’t an option – people had to live in groups or tribes to increase their chances of survival.
Interesting, but does social connection really matter all that much? You may be surprised to learn that our socialization habits are indeed quite important. Let’s take a minute and look at a few ways socialization matters. Increased levels of socialization are associated with:
- Longer life
- Increased happiness
- Improved physical health
- Improved mental wellness
Socialization can come in various forms. Super social people tend to engage in what’s called “macro-socialization,” which involves engaging in larger social activities like joining groups or organizations. People who lean toward macro-socialization are the social butterflies – those that flock to each and every social opportunity with great gusto (“ugh,” say the less social among us).
If you’re a true introvert or you lean more towards solitary activities rather than hanging out with big crowds, you’ll be glad to know that there’s another form of socialization called micro-socialization. This kind of socialization can include exchanges with casual acquaintances or even strangers in brief social exchanges like nodding pleasantly, smiling as someone approaches, saying good morning, or sharing a compliment.
During a recent visit to the store, I held the door for an elderly woman, and as she exited the store, I commented on her pretty sweater. This led to a conversation about her husband’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, which resonated with me because I have a close family member who is also dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. During our brief exchange, the woman connected me to several helpful Alzheimer’s resources that I could share with my family member. And, in addition to gaining access to some much needed information, I also made a deep connection with another human being about our shared experience with Alzheimer’s.
Without taking that moment to hold the door for her and give her a compliment, that opportunity for connection would have been lost. Social connections don’t require big groups of people or large festivities. A brief encounter may blossom into a meaningful connection.