Three weeks ago, ten other Duke students and I flew from across the country to Seattle for our DukeEngage internships. Although the eleven of us have met briefly before the summer, we were merely acquaintances with a range of academic backgrounds and social circles. I was both nervous and curious to see how our group dynamic would develop in this Emerald City.
Since the beginning, the Psychology nerd in me can’t help but to analyze everyone’s social behaviors: sitting pattern during group dinners, choice of conversation topics… From the initial “what’s your major” small talks to early Sunday brunch-runs, our group slowly became closer despite our differences.
It may be dramatic to say that one night changed everything, but it did. Our overnight trip to the Pack Forest was the upward turning point of our group relationship. As we circled around the flickering camp fire and breathed marshmallow-scented air, we stripped away the masks and guards and exposed our vulnerabilities. After rounds of “never-have-I-ever” and hot-seats, someone proposed to give compliments to everyone — the affirmation circle. We went around and discussed what we liked about each person. This may sound cheesy and superficial, but in today’s fast-paced and self-deprecating society, a little affirmation from your peers can go a long way. Surprisingly, it feels equally, if not more satisfying, to give compliments than receiving them. A gesture may seem insignificant to you at the moment, but it may positively impact another person.
My heart still feels warm and fuzzy from the night at the cabin.