Why it’s a good idea to show up.

This morning, I went to an informal monthly coffee for the parents of second-graders at the Big Girl’s school. We all met at a nearby diner, right after drop-off.

A good number of people attended, and it was a nice mix of seeing friends and meeting new folks. I had a lot of fun.

Afterwards, as I walked away, it occurred to me that the coffee demonstrated the power of two psychological principles.

First, interacting with people gives a happiness bost. Studies show that not only extraverts, but–perhaps surprisingly–introverts, too, are made happier by social contact. I really felt energized by having the chance to sit and talk to people for an hour.

Second, familiarity breeds affection. The “mere exposure effect” describes the fact that repeated exposure makes people like music, faces–even nonsense syllables–better. According to the “exposure principle,” the more often a person sees another person, the more intelligent and attractive that person will be ranked.

I’ve noticed this about myself. Even when I don’t take an immediate liking to people, I always like them better, the more I see them.

This shows the importance of my resolution to “Show up.” By being present, by seeing people repeatedly, I increase my liking of them and their liking of me.
Pollyanna Week is a fascinating experiment.
I’ve learned so much.
It has proved to be a terrific challenge.
I’m eager to do better.
(I type this with my orange reminder bracelet sitting beside my computer.)

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Gretchen,
    A few years before I divorced I wrote this list. I think I tried everything. I never showed the list to her. I had already tried all of these in one form or another. I chose to be happy instead. It is equally applicable to either partner.
    If you’ve been juggling 10 things at once for weeks and your husband/wife says “You never spend time with me anymore” maybe it means;
    1. Your husband/wife feels neglected and that you have 10 other priorities in your life that are more important than him/her.
    2. You should let a few of the balls in the air hit the ground and let your husband/wife have more of your time.
    3. That if you don’t have a happy husband/wife you don’t have a happy family.
    4. That regardless of your priorities your husband/wife doesn’t get all the time with you that he/she needs.
    5. That you’ve been too busy to notice that he/she is frustrated that you find it more important for you to spend extra time at work, extra time with church activities, extra time with other neighbors children, but no time for him/her.
    6. That you are difficult to communicate with and you don’t hear what he/she is saying or don’t want to hear what he/she is saying.
    7. That you are consciously or unconsciously avoiding him/her.
    8. That he/she misses you spending time with him/her.
    9. That no matter what he/she does he/she feels that he/she can’t please you because he/she doesn’t know what you want since you don’t volunteer much information and he/she rarely can find the time when he/she can get 100% of your attention and have you open up.
    10. That communicating at 11:00 at night in bed at the end of the day is ineffective.

  • Gretchen,
    That last post relates to your “Happiness Project” objectives of Marriage and Family.
    Your site is enlightening! Keep up the good work.

  • Sharyn

    “Familiarity breeds afffection” – a much more positive turn on the (unfortunately) more well known “familiarity breeds contempt.” Now that’s Pollyanna!

  • lea Carpenter

    i have missed this site, and was so happy to return and find your notes on “showing up.” i am a chronic “bagger,” and it is never because i don’t want to show up but rather that–and perhaps we all suffer a bit from this in the email era–i have found that all my introverted instincts (i have always been off the charts on the myers-briggs in the direction of being introverted) are heightened, and unless pushed by absolute necessity i try to avoid doing things “in person.”
    in fact, it is one aspect of parenthood–a place i hope to get to–that i fear: the push to socialize with other mothers. i always think it will take me back to high school, back to being the quiet one, back to being afraid. and those fears, really, are so preposterous. yet they are there. the irony is that, as you point out, showing up so often does result in relief, rather than an increase in fear. thank you.

  • When you become a parent, you can easily avoid socializing with other mothers. I’ve successfully avoided it for years. For me, as a socially phobic introvert, the important thing is to maintain strong boundaries, and to give more than I receive. As long as I’m doing things for other people, I can stay involved. As soon as it becomes a mere social activity, my social phobia kicks in. Fortunately, there are lots of opportunities to help so I can have superficial relationships without the fear.

  • Loraine

    I’m not sure where to post this, but I thought you’d find it fun. You can buy a “Happiness” necklace. It’s a necklace with the serotonin molecule on it. Here’s the url:

  • Loraine

    I’m not sure where to post this, but I thought you’d find it fun. You can buy a “Happiness” necklace. It’s a necklace with the serotonin molecule on it. Here’s the url:

  • Sharyn

    This is great – only in America! Hey, at $85, somebody’s “smilin’ all the way to the bank”.

  • That’s interesting theory, maybe practice for you. I have to try it and watch the results. I know one fact, that nearly all people (not counting the high level ones like Buddha or Jesus were :)) will make the 90% picture of another person in the first seconds of meeting him. And then it’s changing very slowly. So if you are confident, humorous, strong, relaxed when meeting the new person, it will make a lot of difference.