Everyone can understand from natural experience and common sense that affection is crucial from the day of birth; it is the basis of life. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This one seems straight forward enough. He says that affection, the showing of love and compassion, is crucial from the day of our birth. He also says that affection is the basis of life. I would add that it is part of what sustains us in life, part of what makes life worth living.
There are scientific studies that emphasize this point, stating that a lack of affection can be enough to cause a baby to “fail to thrive” or simply give up on life and die. A similar phenomenon is sometimes seen in older or terminal patients as well. That seems to point to affection being an important part of our life, at least it does to me.
Why is affection important?
Affection – can you imagine a day without it? Unless you’re reading this from solitary confinement, you get some each day. Something as simple as a friendly “Hi!” from a neighbor or a wave from across a parking lot from an acquaintance can make a difference.
Think of a day in the past few weeks where you had very little affection. How did that feel? Think of another day when you had a lot of affection, perhaps at your last birthday or other special gathering. How different was that from the other day you were thinking of earlier?
Where can I apply this in my life?
Affection is an interesting phenomenon, as different levels of friendship result in different shows of affection. Gender also is affects the display of affection for most people. Do guys show affection to other guys the same way that girls show affection to other girls?
Have you ever been on a business trip and had a rough day going from airport to airport? How good did a friendly welcome at the hotel seem? They just said “welcome” and provided basic services (like chocolate chip cookies). But it felt so good because you hadn’t had much if any affection for the past few hours.
Do you have to go on a long business trip to have a day with little affection? Some day’s I’m so grumpy, nobody wants to get close enough to risk being bitten. As a result, I don’t get much affection. As a result, even the slightest kindness can make a big difference.
How and when do you show affection? Only you know what is proper for which situations and with which people. However, I would suggest that you might want to add some extra “hello” and smiles to acquaintances and even strangers. How much that brightens their day may depend on how much affection they are used to getting, and how rough a day they have had.
Could that little extra effort on your part make a difference in the life of someone else? I would argue that it will help, even if only a little. It certainly won’t hurt, will it? Take a moment and think of the times a stranger or acquaintance showed you a little affection, and how it felt.
Now that we have briefly discussed strangers and acquaintances, let’s turn our attention to family and friends. These are people we should know at lease a little better. We should know what they value and how they prefer to have affection shown.
I know people who consider you to be ‘showing affection’ simply by sitting in the same room with them, even if you are reading or watching TV. To do so in another room when you could be in the room they are in, well that’s considered rude.
How do your friends want to have affection shown? Notice that the question wasn’t how you want to show them affection, but what they want. The odd thing is that most people will show affection in the manner they wish to receive it. If someone rubs your back or touches your arm, that’s usually a clue that they like to have the same thing done to them. This can be a big help if you are paying attention. Try it some time and see how it works.
My challenge to you would be to try to show more affection to your friends and family as well as to strangers and acquaintances. Notice I didn’t say more intense affection (which might not be appropriate), but more frequently.
Instead of just giving them a hug when you first see them (and then ignoring them for the rest of the time), be sure to make a point of stopping by and visiting with them a few times and using an appropriate method of showing affection.
We have only dealt with non-verbal methods of affection in this post. I presume that you can figure out on your own how to talk to your family, friends, acquaintances and strangers and let them know that they matter to you.
Please show to others a little extra affection each day. It doesn’t take much time to do, but the impact can be significant.