Do you enjoy casual bonds with people at your gym, with other parents at your kids’ soccer games, or perhaps with your mail carrier or dental hygienist? Sociologist Mark Granovetter calls these low-stakes relationships “weak” ties, and research by Granovetter and others shows they can have a positive impact on our well-being. They help us feel more connected to other social groups and our community at large, causing us to feel less lonely and more empathic. The mini-network aspect of casual ties can also lead to useful recommendations that help simplify our lives (as in, “Hey do you know a good hair stylist or dry cleaner?”)
In short, the more casual ties we have, the happier we are. But some of us don't make the small investment necessary to cultivate such ties. “A lot of us think it’s not worth our time to have those kinds of interactions, that they can’t possibly provide any meaning,” says Dr. Gillian Sandstrom, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Essex. “We’re focused on whatever is next and we don’t stop and take that second to enjoy the moment.”
Taking a few minutes to engage with people we see regularly at places we frequent will increase life satisfaction. So, give yourself permission to talk to familiar faces, and manage your expectations. If you expect the conversation to be enjoyable, it probably will be. (Tweet it!)
Would you say you have numerous casual ties in your community? In what ways do you find they enhance your life? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
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