Impacting Others Beyond Your Friends and Family

We know friends and family have a significant influence over our general well-being, but it’s easy to overlook the impact others have on our lives. The people we encounter every day — teachers, doctors, lawyers, security guards, coworkers, and friends of our friends — add meaning and value to our lives in ways that are vital, but easy to overlook.

The Importance of Acquaintances

Peripheral relationships add variety and diversity to our social sphere. The people we form the closest bonds with are often those who are similar to us in terms of values, interests, socioeconomic status, political stances, and religious beliefs. We need interactions with others who are outside of this sphere to help us expand our understanding of the world. This helps us find ways to adapt to new situations, and as a result, we feel less stressed and more in control of our lives.

These acquaintance relationships are referred to as weak ties, and close friends and family members would be considered strong ties. These weak ties help us expand our network, which can be crucial when developing a career. For instance, during a job hunt, our weak ties are more effective in helping to identify leads and opportunities because of the more diverse interests and socio-economic backgrounds in this larger network. Because our close friends are more like us, their connections and ideas will be similar to our own. The person you sit next to on the train each day may have connections you wouldn’t even imagine.

The benefits of this larger network of weak ties extend beyond career. Pet owners meeting with other pet owners at the dog park may find a new veterinarian. A friend of a friend may have a similar health diagnosis to your own and perhaps they’re able to provide information about resources. And the people we spend time with may influence the choices we make. It’s much easier to quit smoking if you work in an environment where your coworkers are not taking smoke breaks. The behavior of those around us — even if they’re not strong ties — impacts what we think about, which impacts what we do.

When you walk into a coffee shop and the barista recognizes you, smiles, and makes your drink just the way you like it, it makes your day. It’s not just the caffeine that puts that skip in your step — that smile, the recognition, and the sense of belonging all add to your sense of well-being.

Pass It On

This isn’t just a one-way situation — you impact others by adding to their social sphere as well. When you recognize someone, smile, and address them by name, you add to their day. Engaging in acts of kindness can help improve our own mood and reduce stress for ourselves, as well as the person to whom we are reaching out. A little kindness goes a long way.

Choosing grace and kindness when engaging with others causes a ripple effect. The smile you give someone will be passed along to the next person they interact with. We’re all interconnected, and we can all help lift each other up.