by Ruth Pearce

I love listening to Barbara Fredrickson. As a close friend said to me, “I could listen to her sell soap!”

At our Embodied Positive Psychology Summit in May, Barbara was not selling soap, she was explaining moments of positivity resonance—micro-moments of connecting to another person—the stuff that makes the world go round.

I have read Positivity and Love 2.0. I have heard Barbara speak before. But something about hearing her speak this time triggered new processes in my brain. I felt as though I was suddenly more mindful of those brief connections.

I was recently elected to our town planning board. Most people will tell you that being on the planning board is a thankless task. With some of the challenges in our town, it promises to be a rocky ride. Not many opportunities for positivity resonance there!

Or are there?

Each day, I walk my dog, Milo, around town. He particularly likes to visit the local historic inn, which allows dogs. In the summer, visitors love to sit on the porch in the morning and evening and watch the town go by with coffee, or another beverage, in hand. Milo loves to tour his congregation and introduce himself. Most people smile and a few wave us over to say hi, stroking his head and scratching under his chin. I can tell you that Milo is feeling pretty connected and experiencing a great deal of positivity at this point!

Once we have done the rounds of seated visitors, Milo likes to visit with staff. In particular, he likes to schmooze with the front desk staff. They too smile, pet him, and spend a few minutes chatting with me, “Milo’s mom.”

Last night, as I walked Milo, I bumped into a group of people who seemed like visitors. They saw Milo and asked if they could pet him. As they did so, I asked where they were from. Three of them were locals who live in the local housing authority homes on the hill. The other three were visiting from the next town. I introduced myself as a new planning board member, and immediately the conversation opened up. We discussed cell service and cell towers, the trees on Main Street and the future of the town. We were all engaged and connected. At the end of our chat, they thanked me for stopping and speaking with them, and wished me luck on the planning board. We all smiled and felt connected. As they walked away, I heard them say, “That was nice. It was good to finally meet someone who is on one of these boards.”

As I walked on, I swear Milo was smiling. I know I was. I felt connected to a new group of people from town. I felt as though being on the board matters. And I felt optimistic. I even felt like making a good healthy dinner at the end of the day instead of eating out!

This morning, as I walked to the library to work on some writing for my book, I passed the inn. One of the desk staff was sweeping the red carpet that leads to the entrance (yes, we have a red carpet laid out for visitors to town!). He looked up, smiled, and waved, calling a hearty good morning. Chances are, he does not remember my name; I am just Milo’s mum.

In that moment, I smiled, and felt connected and happy. A couple of favorite memories of Milo greeting this man came to me, and I smiled some more. I walked on.

Just before I came to the library, I saw someone from town who runs a local trivia quiz. I love trivia and I attend with three friends whenever we can. He smiled, greeted me with a good morning, and asked if I was ready for this year’s grand Memorial Day parade. That struck me as pretty funny, because our parade—complete with school band, a group of unicyclists, and our dwindling population of veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam—lasts about 10 minutes from soup to nuts!

As I went on my way, I thought about the last quiz. It had been fun to hang out with friends who we only see intermittently. Yet they are people who would be there in a heartbeat if I needed them. That sense of connection felt good.

As I stepped into the bright, airy entrance to the library, I felt transformed. I settled in a quiet corner, and that sense of uplift continued. It contributed to a productive and satisfying two hours of writing.

In those moments, and afterwards, too, I felt connected to people around me, like I belong. The local residents, the desk staff person, and the quizmaster are not the people who are closest to me, not family or lifelong friends. They are “lightly connected” to me—by what Barbara described in her session as “weak ties.” They may be weak, but they are hugely important.

Ruth Pearce, is Business Unit Director of Conferences and Special Events at Wholebeing Institute, where she is currently working on the 2018 Embodied Positive Psychology Summit. She is also coaches project managers through her company ALLE LLC, and is currently writing a book for project managers called “The Project Manager Effect: From Organizing to Energizing. She believes project managers are key leaders and team-builders.
Ruth is the first US Thrive Programme consultant, helping sufferers to overcome anxiety and phobias. Having recently recovered from a lifelong phobia herself, she is committed helping others enjoy their best life.