Imagine if all the people in the world. disappeared. It was just you left. This is hard to imagine because you probably see and talk too a lot of people in your day to day life. Lets assume we interact with an average 3 new people daily during 365 days in a year, in total that’s 80,000 people that we interact with during a year. That’s a crazy large number.
But why do we interact with people?
Most of us are subconsciously interacting with people without understanding the psychology behind why we even feel the need too. Some may argue that this is just the way our humanity functions. We need people. We work with people. We are constantly surrounded by people, so it only makes sense. This might be correct to a certain extent but after doing some more digging, I found a deeper reason.
Every Human Interaction, Explained
Fortunately (or maybe not…) acting coach Keith Johnstone, author of the book “Improvisation and the Theater” figured out the underlying motive behind human interactions. Most of us are filled with the greed for status and fulfillment of our own selfish needs.
Every human interaction — every action, every smile, every text — is done to elevate our own status or fulfill some sort of need.
Now, you might be thinking that he’s just an acting coach, so what much does he know. Well, Johnstone discovered this secret while brainstorming ways to get his acting students to perform more authentically. It was only when he told them to deliver each line as if they were attempting to change or manipulate their level of status that they began to deliver really good performances.
I quickly realized that I am this person too. Imprisoned with my own needs and status, I only ever talk to people when I need help, need to feel uplifted, or when someone reaches out to me first. I wanted to change this.
I thought if I do meet at least 3 new people every day then why can’t I just go out of my way to help them. Put my own needs aside and do something meaningful for others. Pay it forward to them.
Pay it forward — Help 3 people
I was inspired to this after watching the movie “Pay it Forward”. The movie was a story of a social studies teacher who gives an assignment to his junior class to think of an idea to change the world for the better, then put it into action. Most kids didn’t take the task too seriously except for one kid who came up with the concept of “paying forward” favors.
Basically, you help 3 people and those 3 people each help 3 others. Basically creating a pyramid network of good deeds. So I wanted to challenge Keith Johnston’s theory by doing this. I dare you to do this too.
Here’s who I helped and how I did it.)
Giving Clothes to a Homeless Person
Whenever I go to Downtown Toronto (which is pretty much every day 😜), I see this homeless lady who is always sitting beside Union Station. Something I notice about her is that she always wears a very light sweater every day, which is pretty much useless in the freezing Canadian winters. Every day I passed by her, she looked at me and I looked at her wanting to help her but I never had the guts. I was too afraid. After all my parents told me to never talk to a stranger. But she wasn’t a stranger, I saw and studied her every day as I’d wait for my bus. It was like I knew her but kept avoided eye contact because I felt ashamed for not doing anything.
Screw it. One day I went downtown with my parents and took a winter jacket I never wore and gloves I had and gave them to her. She was speechless. She just smiled at me. I smiled back, and then I left.
This was such a short interaction but it made me feel sooo good afterward. I literally blushed and smiled all the way home (😊😍 → my face). I’ll never forget this because it was the first time in a while I felt truly connected to myself and the world.
Talking to a girl at school
There’s a girl who I always see sitting alone at lunch during school. She’s usually sitting in the corner reading a book or playing a game on her phone. But on the rare ocassion that she looks up, I always smile at her. Yeah, I might smile at her but I can do so much more. I’ve always wanted to ask her to sit with my friends and me at lunch but I’m still too afraid. I internalized this a lot these past few days, and I’ve realized that I just care too much about what other people think. What might they think of me? Am I gonna look weird? Will people make fun of me? These questions always rush through my head when I want to do something different, something unconventional.
So naturally, I made it a goal for myself to talk to this girl and become her friend. I’m gonna do it regardless of what other people might think because I know that being nice doesn't lower your ‘status’. It makes someone’s day, and it makes me happy. I haven’t done this yet but when I go back to school, I’m gonna do this.
Helping a friend
I have a friend who I very well know is going through some tough times with her mental health. She’s tried to reach out to me, but I’ve continued to run away from the situation because I’m scared. I don’t think I can help her. But what if I can? What if I can add value to her? I started thinking about this these past few days. I guess I will never know unless I do it. So I did it.
Today, I reached out to her, and I listened. I gave her genuine advice and told her that I will reach out to her every day. I gave the conversation my full attention, time and energy. I could already tell she was feeling better and that made me feel soo good. I realized that good friendships are actually so important to me. I also realized that I like helping people and giving advice. It’s hard for me to break out of my shell at first but once I do, I can be valuable and I want to start doing that more.
Make rapid connections.
Reaching out to others doesn’t have to take a lot of time. It can only be hard at first but can feel so good afterward. Make it a goal to invite someone out to lunch or coffee at least once a week and have a genuine conversation with them. Listening to others makes a lasting impression and makes people feel valued.
Become more productive happily.
I realized that I have so many goals in life but I can’t achieve any of them without being happy. Sounds self-explanatory but it doesn't hit home right away. Helping others makes me feel valued. Makes me feel like I have an impact on the world and place in society. There are studies to prove this.
The Social Market Foundation and the University of Warwick found that participants’ productivity increased by up to 20 percent when they were given happy triggers like watching comedy clips. It’s a domino effect and when we feel happy everything in our life is more enhanced. I know that the way I feel happy is by helping others.
Benefit your community.
Helping others has a direct impact on your community and the type of atmosphere in your community. You want to be living in a community where there is love, and people are always helping others. For example, I enjoyed helping the homeless lady and after people see me, they might be inspired to help more people too.
It’s crazy to think that everything you do can create a snowball effect that expands past a single act and trickles into the community.
Helpers Others = Happiness
At the end of the day, we are all humans and like Keith Johnstone said we want to feel good, and happy about ourselves. What’s interesting is that you can still fulfill these needs and feel rushes of dopamine by helping others.
It’s about time we start reaching out to others and adding value to all of our 80,000 interactions because that is what will give us true happiness.
I’m Alishba Imran.
I am a Blockchain, VR and Machine Learning developer. If you want to stay up to date with my progress feel free to follow me on LinkedIn, and Medium! If you enjoyed reading this article, please press the👏 button, and share!