Other People Matter: Ask ‘The People Walker’

people-matter“[P]sychologists have shown…better health and lower burnout….determined to a large extent by our social relationships in the workplace—and, more particularly, the social groups we form there.“*

Good relationships are good for our health; while loneliness kills and costs, as a public health hazard draining our health care dollars. Being alone per se is not the problem. And being with other people is not always the cure – we’ve all heard the expression “Being lonely in a crowded room.” Loneliness is more a feeling of being left out. We humans are hardwired to suffer greatly from this, emotionally and physiologically, because in the environment of evolutionary adaption, when our social brains were formed, being left out could mean being ‘left for dead’. Ever wonder why you felt so bad when you didn’t get invited to that party or that meeting. Maybe you didn’t even really want to go, and still you felt bad.

Enter the The People Walker, Chuck McCarthy – who walks human beings for $7 per mile. Mr. McCarthy’s service has been so well received that he has hired more people walkers to help out, and the idea has already spread to Israel, Britain, and New York. McCarthy says there are numbers of reasons why someone might hire a people walker:

“Need motivation to walk?” they ask from lamp posts. “Scared to walk alone at night? Don’t like walking alone at all? Don’t want people to see you walking alone and just assume you have no friends? Don’t like listening to music or podcasts but can’t walk alone in silence, forced to face thoughts of the unknown future, or your own insignificance in the ever expanding universe?”

I’m seeing a common denominator here. Just as evolutionary psychology would suggest: People may want to be with other people, even a people walker, to feel emotionally and physically SAFE. As our study below suggests*, we may find nourishment and health in our relationships at work. But what if we don’t work, or don’t work in an office, or work in an office more toxic than not. Is there a healthful connection to be found among family or friends? And, if for some reason, like one client who comes to mind,** let’s say you are away from your family and new in town without many friends, then what? Help is on the way.

At a recent professional conference, one speaker presented a finding that a strong mental representation of a supportive other, someone who really cares, can lead to better health and well being. Doesn’t even matter if the person is still alive. It’s the heartfelt thought that counts. So…if you ever find yourself feeling left out or cast aside, connect, connect, connect with someone who cares, real or imagined, to help you feel safe, as part of something larger than yourself. Graft something warm and wonderful onto a lonely moment. This is how people change. Grafting. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

To work on this or something else, would love to hear from you:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

* N. K. Steffens, S. A. Haslam, S. C. Schuh, J. Jetten, R. van Dick. A Meta-Analytic Review of Social Identification and Health in Organizational Contexts. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2016; DOI: 10.1177/1088868316656701

**Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

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