The Rippling Effect

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I have decided today to write about The Rippling Effect, simply because it is one of my favourite concepts and one I think (for reasons that will become clear!) is a great one to share.

I first learned about The Rippling Effect from Irvin Yalom, although I don’t think he claims it as his own.

Yalom explains “Rippling” in his book Staring At The Sun: Overcoming the Dread of Death (2008, Piatkus):

Rippling refers to the fact that each of us creates – often without conscious thought or knowledge – concentric circles of influence that may affect others for years, even for generations.  That is, the effect we have on other people is in turn passed on to others, much as the ripples in a pond go on and on until they’re no longer visible but continuing at a nano level.

So what Yalom means is that while our names and identities will pass out of memory, our influence continues on.  While this might seem more obvious in the cases of ‘big’ things such as a scientific discovery or starting a new social movement, Yalom’s point is that the Rippling Effect can and will apply to each and every one of us.

Every action we take, every encounter we have with someone, will in some way change both them and us.  That change will then ripple outwards like a wave, as that person then goes on to interact with others.  It’s not necessary that the effect we have be huge or noticeable to others – it just needs to be there.  It might even be unconscious, rather than based on your actual words or deliberate actions.  Yalom continues:

Attempts to preserve personal identity are always futile.  Transiency is forever.  Rippling, as I use it, refers instead to leaving behind something from your life experience; some trait; some piece of wisdom, guidance, virtue, comfort that passes on to others, known or unknown.

This made me think of a quotation by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Pass it on!