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“Excuse me sir, is there a public toilet somewhere around here?” was my question to the builder working on a new kiosk in the not-so-busy Anexartisias street in the heart of Limassol, my home town.

I was on my bike returning home from my usual very early morning coffee. The polite 60-or-so year old man was quick to respond and directed me to a nearby alley to what he claimed to be some of the oldest public toilets in town behind a quite famous fashion store. I pedalled my way forward and into the alley and there it was:

The door to the public toilets!

“Who would have imagined”. I thought to myself. “I’ve passed from this street and this alley hundreds of times and the public toilets lain hidden in plain sight!”

All it took was a friendly smile and summoning the courage to ask a person working in the area.

One cannot stress enough the synergistic benefit of human affiliation and interaction with others.

There is a significant spread of valuable knowledge that takes place through people interacting and affiliating with each other in various settings and contexts. Shared knowledge helps people get to where they want to go faster than when going solo. In his book Focus, renowned psychologist and blockbuster author Daniel Goleman highlights how our attention and knowledge actually increase by increasing both our strong and weak social relationships. Goleman argues that through our social network we obtain valuable information and tacit knowledge of ‘how things work here’, whether this relates to cultural dynamics in a workplace, or the inner workings of an institution or a new neighbourhood.

Goleman writes accordingly:

‘Casual acquaintances can be extra sets of eyes and ears on the world, key sources of the guidance we need to operate in complex social and information ecosystems. Most of us have a handful of strong ties—close, trusted friends—but we can have hundreds of so-called weak ties (for example, our Facebook ‘friends’). Weak ties have high value as multipliers of our attention capacity, and as a source of tips for good shopping deals, job possibilities, and dating partners.’

It follows from the above that our capacity for learning greatly expands when we increase our affiliations and ties – including so-called weak ties.

As social animals, we not only satisfy the need for belonging and relatedness by affiliating with one another; in fact we become wiser and more knowledgeable due to the synergistic benefit of human affiliation: we share knowledge and in that sense we all become wealthier by interacting with one another.


Excerpt from Philippos Aristotelous’ latest book “The MARVEL of Happiness: Principles, Stories and Lessons for Living Fully“.

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