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3 Keys to Loving Others

I used to preach that the internet was a place where people who felt alone where they are could find belonging and connectivity. And that is true for me still. But the opposite is that…we have this amplification of voice and connectivity where we are entrenching ourselves as who we are to the dearth of understanding other people.

Felicia Day,
Between the Sheets 9/18/19

Ah, February, when our thoughts (and internet searches) turn to love!

Last year I shared three keys to self-love—a vital component of personal health—and today we look at the flip side: love of others.

We all know that 2020 and 2021 were some of the most difficult and dividing years in our nation’s history. We can still feel it on social media if we remain on Twitter or Facebook and especially if we’ve joined the trend of moving to alternative social media platforms which are specifically designed for those who share our worldview. That alone is more evidence of the divide than the heated discourse which has turned off so many former open social media “friends. *”

At least then we were talking.

Valentine’s Day is, of course, intended for romantic love but our love of others is more the type for which my closest landmark city is named, Philadelphia, or “The City of Brotherly Love.” This type of love is just as valuable as romantic love, if not more, since brotherly (and sisterly) love is what can hold a street, block, town or nation together. Like little covalent bonds, the love of others makes up the matter of our society.

According to researchers at Henry Ford Health Systems, the love of others, and the connection that it brings, are predictors of greater physical, mental and emotional health across the lifespan. Children without those connections “can experience decreased intellect and development” while adults “are more likely to have depression and physiological problems.” (2020)

If we are feeling down, physically unwell or our children not maturing as we’d like then one answer seems to be to increase our purposeful love of others. If after the last few years that sounds like a heroic task—it is!

These three keys are offered to make that task a little easier, and bring us closer to the heroes we are.

Take, Seek and Coordinate

Taking is the first step to purposefully loving others. Seriously. Even more, according to Forbes, this skill is the foundation of how to be a great and inspiring leader!

Steffan Surdek of the Forbes Council teaches leaders how to first be able to take the perspective of others in their own mind. Once this is accomplished leaders can then seek those perspectives openly from those under them, and finally to coordinate those perspectives with their own into a new, more balanced whole that benefits everyone.

This is the first key to loving others because of the insightful format of skill development. It starts only with us and honing our ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. If we can’t do that, it’s hard to find the value in the perspective of others. “A perspective is not right or wrong by default,” Surdek writes, “It just is what it is: the point of view of a single person based on their life experiences and values, among other things.”

We’ve lost sight of that over the last few years, especially online.

If we have trouble taking another’s perspective while on social media, here’s something to try:

Before charging up our flamethrower and hitting the keys, click on that person’s profile. This is not to stalk or be creepy, but to see them as a real person with a family, friends and probably a silly picture or two. If dehumanization can make someone an enemy, then “re-humanization” can bring them back.

Connect with Healthy Boundaries

The term “toxic person” has grown in usage in recent years. They do exist and one should be aware of them and keep whatever social distance is needed to maintain our own health. However, they are not as common as we may think. In fact, the more we cut ourselves off from others in our daily lives, the more we begin to see more and more people as “toxic” or seeing viewpoints that differ from our own as threats to our well-being.

Here’s a simple empathy builder. Call an old friend. Yes, call. Not text. We may startle our old pal with a ringtone rather than a text chirp, but that voice-to-voice connection makes the good chemicals in our brain surge even if they may have voted for the other guy.

The more we maintain real social connections the greater our empathy becomes, according to HFHS research. As Henry Ford therapist Jay Weiss, MA, LLP explained “When you don’t have close relationships in life, it’s harder to have that emotional connection with others” and over time our empathy even decreases. (2020)

Just Think About It

Respect others. Help others. Love others.
These are the keys that unlock our soul.

Anthony Douglas Williams,
Canadian spiritualist, writer and animal rights activist
Inside the Divine Pattern

The final key is the easiest of all. Just thinking about our present loving relationship, a love song or our past meaningful experiences with a friend can be a powerful tool in developing—or redeveloping our love of others.

Dr. Nicolas Guéguen, Professor of Social Behavior at the French Université de Bretagne Sud has published numerous studies on the topic of love and openness. He found that thinking about love, people we love or even the idea of loving others will make us more open and agreeable to alternate or new ideas, more generous or more willing to help another person—even someone we don’t know. (Nicholson, 2016)

Imagine what we could build if we try this year to take the other perspective in seeking a new mutual benefit based in understanding, maintain or renew connections while keeping healthy boundaries and over-all simply set our minds to love and developing that brotherly love with those around us.

Sounds like a world worth living in and loving for Valentine’s Day and beyond.

Nicholson, J. (2016) Persuading Others With Loving Thoughts. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-attraction-doctor/201609/persuading-others-loving-thoughts

Surdek, S. (2016) Why Understanding Other Perspectives Is A Key Leadership Skill. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2016/11/17/why-understanding-other-perspectives-is-a-key-leadership-skill/?sh=1781a8a36d20

The Health Benefits of Connecting With Others (2020) Henry Ford Health Systems. Retrieved from: https://www.henryford.com/blog/2020/05/health-benefits-of-connecting-with-others

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