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Wellbeing / Business psychology

Six degrees of connection

Occasionally you’ll be exposed to some thinking that you then can’t shake from your mind. This happened to me whilst listening to a program on good old ABC radio recently discussing degrees of connection. See what you make of it.

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The item discussed research that has shown the people you interact with in your everyday life have a marked affect on your happiness levels. So far, so unprofound.

The really interesting bit came next. Apparently, the people they know (and you don’t) also directly affect your happiness.

“Everything we do or say tends to ripple through our network, having an impact on our friends (one degree), our friends’ friends (two degrees), and even our friends’ friends’ friends (three degrees).”

So there you are, reading your weekly dose of solo wisdom and minding your own business, and all the while, people you don’t even know are affecting your mood… and you theirs.

"I know I spend more time processing input from others than being conscious of my output. I think most people are the same and now I’m trying to redress that inequality."

Don’t you think that’s incredible?

After hearing the item, I felt a new weight of responsibility for my actions.

Of course there’s no way of knowing for certain whether the research on degrees of connection is right, however I’ve chosen to believe it and have started to question a number of my actions:

Want more articles like this? Check out the business psychology section.

Can I see beyond ego? I am trying to let go of my assumption that we live in an anonymous society and instead seek evidence that we are invested in and connected to one another.

How awake am I? I know I spend more time processing input from others than being conscious of my output. I think most people are the same and now I’m trying to redress that inequality.

What kind of energy am I creating? Assuming the effects of my behaviour extend beyond my immediate circle, I plan to take responsibility for how I engage with every individual I come into contact with.

What kind of energy am I absorbing? Books, films, magazines, blogs, friends, family…how do the things that I devote time to inform my definition of ‘normal’?

Is there a more constructive way to communicate? When on the receiving end of bad customer service, for example, can I hold my tongue and the snipey comment on the tip of it? Surely it’s not worth colouring that person’s day… or indeed that of their loved ones.

What learnings have come your way that you’ve found hard to shake? Share them below and if you’d like to listen to the ABC program on degrees of connection catch it here.

Sam Leader

is a former director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.

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