The World Happiness Database (yes there is such a thing!) has found that people who have close friendships are happier, more empathic, display greater honesty and altruism. On another front, evolutionary biologists have found that these are traits that are very important to give and receive for survival. As Homo sapiens we are basically just wired to be social animals.
What causes some people to have more friends than others? I’m not talking here about the ‘friends’ we may have on Facebook or other social media sites but the kind of person (friend or a family member who is also a friend) that you could call in the middle of the night because you feel the need to talk. Could it be that they have developed greater empathy and curiosity for others?
If you watch them closely, you see that they truly care about others. They are more interested in letting the other person talk rather than keeping the attention on themselves and taking up all of the ‘air space.’ They find other people interesting and are curious about their world views. You can just feel a genuineness about them. They are not simply giving you 5 minutes of their time but are actually interested in what you are saying! Their energy is positive, uplifting and seems to naturally draw us in with their empathic regard. They want to walk a step or two in our world to better understand us, without value judgments but simply to more fully understand.
George Orwell serves as a tremendous example of a person who purposely experienced different world views to expand his empathy and understanding. After serving as a colonial police officer in British Burma in the 1920’s he returned to Britain determined to develop a deeper understanding of what life was like for the economically poor street people. As he spent time, dressed as a beggar, he realized that homeless people are not simply ‘drunken scoundrels.’ He wrote a book entitled, Down and Out in Paris and London about his experience and stated that it was the ‘greatest travel experience of his life.’
Rarely do we hear of such extreme learning examples such as Orwell’s but the truth remains, when you take the time to observe, listen with your heart and try to walk in another person’s shoes, even for a few moments, you develop greater empathy and respect. Without even realizing it, you find the numbers of friends you have increasing because you have taken the time to show you care. After all, we are all doing the best we can in this lifetime as we work at learning our own unique lessons.
William Shakespeare said, ‘A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.’ Doesn’t get much better than that right?
Have a great few days!