September 24, 2018

Social Bonds

By Sarah Maples and Nikki G. Maples, Law Office of Nikki G. Maples

Social bonds refer to much more than our connections to friends and family. More accurately, the social bond represents an individual’s connection with society as a whole. This includes workplace encounters, relationship with community, political standing, as well as the romantic, friendly, and familial ties we often associate with the word ‘social’.

We begin forming an understanding of social bonds from the moment we are born. In a study conducted by Dr. Grazyna Kochanska, it was revealed that the bond a newborn child forms with their parents can have lasting effects that extend well beyond infancy (Defibaugh). A child will study the social interactions they see at home and mimic them in the real world as they begin to grow and form their own social bonds. Children learn by example, so practicing healthy listening habits and conflict resolution in the home can be integral to a child’s ability to create and maintain their own social ties in the classroom and beyond. Conversely, if a child grows up in a household where abuse, neglect, or unnecessary conflict are commonplace, they will be less likely to create or maintain social bonds outside of the household. This can lead to social isolation and, in some cases, criminal behavior (Definbaugh).

Why is this important to lawyers? We need to lead by example so that the younger generation of lawyers will understand the importance of listening to a client when they are presenting a problem or an issue and asking for help. It is so easy in our profession to simply “issue spot” in any given scenario.  Too quickly we begin the problem-solving phase in our head instead of truly listening to every detail presented by a client. It is critical for lawyers to sever the listening aspect from the conflict resolution aspect so that details are not lost and, more importantly, so that the clients feel they have been heard.

Research has shown that strong social connections can be incredibly beneficial to both mental and physical health. Unsurprisingly, nurturing healthy social connections has been proven to reduce one’s risk for depression and anxiety, but it can even have a similar effect to healthy eating and exercise. A study ran at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill found that social ties can attribute to several physical health factors such as BMI, high blood pressure, and obesity. The study found that social isolation can have an incredibly negative effect on one’s health, leading to obesity, stroke, cancer, and ultimately, death.

Why is this important to lawyers? Lawyers tend to slip into their comfort zones, the monotony of their day-to-day lives consisting of: home, office, late nights or weekends preparing for trial or depositions, back home (possibly a cocktail to unwind). The longevity of a lawyer’s career is a marathon and it is stressful. It is beneficial to both mental and physical health to step away from the monotony of your career and meet up with a friend for a hike, or golf, or go see live music with a group of people. Social connections away from the office can improve and restore your energy and health during the times when you return to the office.

As important as social connections are, it is perhaps even more important to be able to determine whether or not a social relationship is in fact ‘healthy’. Relationships can range from healthy to abusive, and an unhealthy social bond can be just as, if not more, detrimental to one’s health. If at any point you feel you may be in an unhealthy or even abusive relationship, you must take the time to evaluate the situation. Simply because you feel a strong connection to someone or something does not mean that it is a healthy relationship. If you do not feel happy around someone, or you find conflicts often lead to personal attacks or are resolved in an unhealthy way, then you may need to cut that specific bond (Defibaugh).

In short, social bonds are vital to the human experience. A healthy social circle can lead to greater happiness and even extended life. Humans are social creatures, and we thrive when we are in an environment that allows us to nurture our primal instincts….and…NEWS FLASH: Our primal instincts do not include the practice of law, that is a chosen skill and art. Go out and meet new friends, become involved with a local volunteer project, even run for office! Strengthen your social bond and in turn lead a more enriched and fulfilling life.

Bibliography
Bergland, Christopher. “Having Social Bonds Is the No. 1 Way to Optimize Your Health.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 14 Jan. 2016, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201601/having-social-bonds-is-the-no-1-way-optimize-your-health.

Defibaugh, Alan. “Building Social Bonds.” Edited by Harrison Wein and Tianna Hicklin,

National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2 May 2018, newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/04/building-social-bonds.

“SOCIAL BOND.” BROKEN WINDOW THEORY. Keeping Buildings Repaired Prevents Crime, sociologyindex.com/social_bond.htm.