Say hi

13 February 2023

Zeg maar goeiendag

This week we had to say goodbye to our loyal dog: Lucca. For 13 years she was part of our family. She was an inseparable "companion the route" from dawn to bedtime. She also often provided a spontaneous chat with strangers who crossed our hiking trail. "Talk to strangers more often, it will do you good," psychologists advise everyone. That's all it needs to be to live happily.

At a time when more and more people are threatening to isolate themselves from a hostile outside world and prefer to retreat into a protective 'cocoon', it remains more important than ever to keep in touch with others. Social media offers solace for this, but even more important are real, physical contacts with people, as social psychology has been teaching us for some time. Good relationships increase the chances of a long and happy life.

For example, last week I read in the newspaper De Morgen a long interview with the psychologist Marc Schulz, who, together with his colleague psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, has written a book about "The good life". Based on scientific research, they advocate good, warm relationships that are indispensable for a good life. They also point out to the reader that it is important to actively invest in social relationships, as a form of social fitness. And that doesn't have to be so difficult, or far away. Talking to strangers more is a good idea. A chance encounter, for example with your dog, on the platform of a station, or on Saturday morning at the bakery or butcher can give us a sense of humanity and belonging. Of not being alone in the world. "That feeling is more powerful than many people suspect," it reads. I would like to endorse it.

For some, that also means committing to an association to make the small or big world a better place for everyone. Just last week, I spoke to a friend of many years who, after a successful career in business, now retired, has found a new calling in volunteering. "Aider les autres, c'est réussir ma vie", that sounds nice in French. A good interaction between self-interest and collective interest, and there is nothing wrong with that. It's only encouraging.

I am also very pleased that the book "Kom op!" by my former colleague and good friend Marc Michils was just voted the best marketing book of the year. Marc also gets the greatest satisfaction from managing thousands of volunteers throughout Flanders as head of Kom op tegen kanker. In his book - already discussed here last year and strongly recommended - he encourages everyone who believes in the power of solidarity, and wants to put up a dam against acidification and hostility in our society.

Also in my daily professional activity in the marketing and communication world, I meet many people who are not only driven by commercial objectives, or struggle for a larger market share, but who also have a mission to build a more sustainable, diverse and inclusive future with brands. Sometimes this forces them to compromise with themselves, or to make professional and personal choices. I can only have a lot of respect for that.