The Positive Power of a Neighbor

“Small talk” isn’t so small when you consider how even casual social connections can combat loneliness.

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Posted in , May 30, 2019

Neighbors combat loneliness

“These are the people in your neighborhood,” goes the familiar “Sesame Street” refrain. The classic song refers to the baker, the postal worker and others who keep a residential area fed, happy and smiling. Most important on this list, though, is the simple title of “neighbor.”

An illustrated article in Yes! magazine showcases the powerful ways in which knowing our neighbors builds positive, connected communities. In fact, the most casual social connections between neighbors can have the biggest impact.

“’Small talk’ used to have a bad rap,” writes Susan Lazarovic, "but the latest science tells us that talking about the weather with the crossing guard does make us happier.”

She points out that an average drill is used for just 13 minutes in its lifetime. When you borrow a neighbor’s drill, you’re not substantially increasing its use (though you are saving yourself the time and expense of a trip to the hardware store). More meaningfully, you’re taking an opportunity to connect with your neighbor, even if it’s just to exchange quick pleasantries as you borrow and return the tool. 

Good things come from these simple exchanges, from a social cushion to lean on if you ever need to have a difficult conversation with a neighbor, to bona fide friendships.

In one of many humorous moments in the piece, Lazarovic depicts a man borrowing a cup of sugar from his neighbor. His speech bubble reads, “I’m asking you for sugar so that you’ll ask me for sugar so that we’ll have lots of delicious baked goods and a robust civic life.” 

At a time when isolation is such a common problem that loneliness is often referred to as an “epidemic,” Lazarovic’s message is an inspiring reminder that it doesn’t take much to cultivate a positive, connected community. Just like a cup of sugar, with small talk, a little goes a long way.

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