The secret to feeling good? They are our fellow men, social relationships, even the most superficial ones such as an unexpected message, a polite email or a chat with a stranger on public transport. Meeting opportunities whose positive effects on mood are confirmed by an increasing number of studies.
We are a sociable species but many of us, we read in an article on the subject published by New York Timessuffer from what the psychologist Nicholas Epley The University of Chicago defines “subsociality”, a condition of widespread anxiety that leads us to avoid interactions that would be pleasant and rewarding. A problem that the psychologist suggests addressing by dedicating himself to a real “social training”.
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by Francesco Cro
Don’t underestimate emails and text messages
Do we think that writing an email or a text message to someone we haven’t heard for a long time is of no use? A research recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology highlights that we tend to underestimate the benefits of this type of communication.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh carried out a series of thirteen experiments involving more than 5,900 participants to understand the extent to which people realize the effect these interactions have on the recipient, be it a friend or a friend. mere acquaintance, what psychologists call a “weak link”. Discovering that the pleasure generated by communication is much greater than assumed, especially when a superficial knowledge shows up.
The reasons of those who do not make themselves heard
Why then do we hesitate to make ourselves heard? In many cases, the researchers explain, the problem may be that we often don’t realize we like others, as well as underestimate the importance of social relationships for our well-being. “It is to be hoped that these results will encourage people to be more present with their acquaintances,” observes the author of the study. Peggy Liu.
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Virtual is fine but real is better
“WhatsApp and messaging are now part of our daily way of communicating, and allow us to keep in touch even at a distance, with certainly positive effects”, remembers the psychotherapist. Sarah Zamperlin, “moreover, somehow distance makes us feel safe by allowing us to open up in a deeper way”. Even if there is the risk of losing the habit of non-virtual interactions, “the face-to-face contact, the attention to the times of the other required by a dialogue in presence”, continues the psychotherapist. “And sometimes you risk losing the context, given by the tone of voice and facial expressions: emoticons only solve up to a certain point”.
Talk to strangers
In fact, other research shows the advantages of obsolete behaviors such as talking to strangers when we travel on public transport. We do it less and less, above all, the researchers explain, because we do not realize how pleasant it can be to converse with a stranger: a survey from a few years ago shows that less than one in four people consider the idea of addressing the word to a stranger met on the train or subway, but the most recent research shows that those who do so discover a more rewarding experience than expected.
Introverts also like it
Chatting with your neighbor, for example, makes a ride on the bus more enjoyable, and other studies show that even longer and more in-depth conversations are appreciated: a meeting with a stranger, according to a study by the University of Virginia, is also a opportunity to obtain useful information or otherwise learn something. And the data collected shows that introverted people who find it harder to talk to a stranger enjoy the experience as much as the more sociable.
“Chatting with strangers helps us to get out of our bubble, confronting us with opinions and lifestyles that are far from ours”, Zamperlin emphasizes. “At the same time, an unknown interlocutor does not know our characteristics, positive or negative, and allows us to expose ourselves a little more and enjoy the conversation by expressing ourselves freely without feeling tied to a role”.
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The importance of kindness
But socializing isn’t just about talking to strangers: Another study shows that we also tend to underestimate the effects of a kind gesture, such as giving someone a coupon for a cup of hot chocolate (the gimmick used by researchers). Participants in the experiment were able to anticipate that the gesture would be welcomed, but not to what extent. “Not to mention”, Zamperlin recalls, “that a gesture of kindness, if it is authentic, allows us to get in touch with positive emotions”.
The problem, the American researchers explain, is that we often hesitate to make gestures of this type because we feel uncomfortable and not up to par: while we should consider that our interlocutors pay attention to kindness and warmth more than to our competence.