My grandmother used to send out Christmas cards. Not just a few cards; it must have been hundreds. Well, maybe “hundreds” is an exaggerated memory, but I clearly recollect the lengthy list of names in the little notebook that emerged every year around this time.
Sending Christmas cards was a time-consuming process because she included handwritten notes in many of those cards. This Christmas note was the only contact that she had with some people, so she used it as a chance to catch up on family news as well as send Christmas greetings.
As I was texting a quick “Happy Anniversary” message to a friend the other day, it struck me that my texted greeting didn’t carry with it quite the same feeling as a traditional card.
Granted, there are positives and negatives. I knew instantly that my text was received, even though my friend is more than a thousand miles away. However, unlike a card, she doesn’t have my text sitting on her table to warm her heart when she sees it. And she won’t store it tenderly in a drawer as a reminder for years to come.
Whether it’s text, phone call, or a beautiful card, it’s the connection that counts.
Dr. Glasser says that one of our basic needs is love and belonging. For some of us, it’s a strong driving force. We need to know that we are connected closely with others, that our family is with us, our friends are there for us, and that we are part of a community that feels like home to us. We need to know that we belong.
For others, the need to feel accepted and connected isn’t strong at all. As long as we’re getting along with the dog and we have a little social contact, there’s no strong drive to get out there to interact with people.
Some of us need a lot of human interaction to feel satisfied; others would rather keep just one or two close friends. In either case, the question is how to find effective methods to satisfy the level of love and belonging that we need.
If you don’t have the level of human connection that you would like to have, then perhaps you’d like to take some action on that. Dr. Robert Wubbolding, in “A Set of Directions for Putting and Keeping Yourself Together,” suggests three practical characteristics for any action.
- Controlled by you only. If you make your action dependent on someone else, then you are building in an excuse. Example, “The next time she calls me, I’ll ask her to visit” is dependent on the other person calling. “I’ll call and invite her to visit” is under your control. You can’t control how she responds, but at least you can control the invitation.
- Simple. Elaborate plans can go awry. If it’s complicated, expensive, and you feel unappreciated for your effort, that’s a good formula to inspire resentment, which isn’t helpful! It’s more effective to meet your friend for coffee today, or to hand-write a note this evening, than it is to plan an elaborate home-cooked meal that may never happen.
- Specific. Telling yourself, “I’ll connect with my friends more,” is a nice sentiment, but it’s not specific. “I’ll make a phone call, write a note, drop off flowers, go for a visit,” are specific. Attach a time frame, and you have a plan! “I’ll visit Harry for an hour this evening,” is a specific action.
My grandmother didn’t have the opportunity to interact with a lot of people, but she had her connections—even with people far away—through the exchange of cards. We have more options. It’s worth using them.
How do you satisfy your need for love and belonging?