The vendor isn’t the only person, of course, who has felt cut down by rejection. Psychologists have found that social rejection can make both the rejected and the rejecter feel alienated and insignificant. As Jonathan learned on a crowded street corner, the smallest moment of rejection can knock the meaning out of a connection as easily as the smallest moment of belonging can build it up. After Jonathan dismissed the vendor’s bid for mutual trust, both of them left each other that morning feeling diminished.
Fortunately, the two men were able to restore their relationship. The next time Jonathan saw the vendor, he brought him a cup of tea. And the next time the vendor offered Jonathan a newspaper, Jonathan thanked him and humbly accepted his gesture of kindness. They continue to share a quick conversation each day.
We can’t control whether someone will respond to our bids, but we can all choose to reciprocate one. We can decide to respond kindly, rather than antagonistically, to one another.
We can choose to value people rather than devalue them. We can invite people to belong. And when we do, not only will our own lives feel more meaningful—but our relationships will be better, too.
By Emily Esfahani Smith
This article was originally published on The Gottman Relationship Blog.
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