There’s rarely a day that goes by for me that I don’t go and buy coffee. The ceremony is the same almost every day. Get dressed, put my phone, keys, and wallet in my pockets. Then I pat each of my pockets to make sure they’re still there before I head down my hallway. Once I’ve travelled in my elevator to the lobby I walk out of the front door, hang a 90 degree turn right and walk about 100 feet into Starbucks.
As an aside, I really wish there was a better option for my morning coffee purchase. But I can’t complain about the 45 seconds it takes me to get from my door to my coffee shop.
So why do I buy coffee every single day? It’s not because I sleep poorly. It’s not because I have a crippling addiction. It’s actually very simple: People.
In the time that I do I a roundtrip from my apartment and back for coffee, I engage in easily a half of a dozen of micro interactions. Half of the time I see someone in my hallway. I’ve made a point to learn every single one of their names and what they do for their occupation. We all can have 25 second conversations in the elevator and every other time we see each other throughout the week.
Then there’s the concierge. There’s always an almost painfully cheery “Good morning!” exchanged between the two of us. And most of the time upon my return with a coffee a 1-2 minute gossip exchange.
Then there’s the Baristas in Starbucks. Almost always one of them will make eye contact with me and proclaim “Hi Robert!”. Over time I’ve learned where they’re from, siblings, or even where they’re getting married and in how many days. (I actually freaked one of them out one day because I knew exactly how many days until they were getting married in Hawaii).
I consider all of these interactions to contribute and form my next few hours. Without some sort of morning interaction my days tend to be longer. But what I’d like to talk about is how these interactions are not at all long. I really do mean they are no more than 3 minutes every time. What they are, however, is extremely consistent.
There’s a theory called “Interactionism” and another “Symbolic Interactionism”. At an extremely high level overview they describe how micro interactions form who someone is. How someone views and thinks of others is derived by previous interactions with the person or object. Sometimes even related people or objects can form opinions.
You might be sitting there reading this saying “Well yeah, duh.”. But what I think is often overlooked is that ANYTHING is a micro interaction. Tapping into these micro interactions and identifying which ones make you the happiest and provide the most value to your life is a very valuable tool.
For example, you reading this right now. Reading this in itself is an interaction with me. But the voice you’re reading it in. The inflections you’re generating in your head. The distractions you might have from finishing a paragraph. All of these details contribute to this micro interaction between you and me. They are helping generate a uniquely special connection.
I’d like to stress why I think it is important to have several micro interactions every day.
- Having a bad day? Because you’ve engaged in so many micro interactions with the same set of people. It’s very likely you’ll see one of them and be brought back to a happier state simply because that’s how you are associated with that person (hopefully).
- Need boxes for moving? Need sugar for cookies? Guess what, knock on your neighbors door and instead of saying “Hi I live next door”, you can open with “Hey Dylan! Could I bother you for some sugar? By the way how’s college?”
If you’re at all like me, you have to rely on micro interactions to maintain any sort of sanity.
Furthermore, I’m not against the idea of a micro interactions with yourself. Taking a bath. Reading in a secluded area. Hell, writing this blog post even. All of these things are micro interactions with your own being and contribute to how you view yourself as much as you would someone else. I could even argue that maybe that’s where you should start.
Tap into micro interactions. There’s too many people in this world to avoid them.