“Relationships are themselves a crucial part of psychological wealth, without which you cannot be truly rich”
We are social beings. We rely upon our emotional connection with others in order to survive. Emotions are seemingly contagious for that very reason, to enable us to transfer any feelings of imminent threat to our companions so we can ‘get the hell out of there’ or ‘get ready for a fight’.
As humans, we are more than just emotional transferers, we are story tellers, we are listeners. We are responsible, not only for our own happiness, but the happiness of others. Again, the happiness of others lead to social bonds which enables survival. We need social bonds throughout our lifespan, to thrive and without these social bonds, we can feel negative and painful emotions. Similarly, we are understandably distressed when we experience conflict with others or where bonds are broken. Loneliness, or a temporarily loss of connection can be a precipitating factor for depression or anxiety, not to mention perpetuating any mental ill health a person may already be experiencing.
Even with our innate drive to connect, we appear to be losing some of the key skills that we need to enhance this connection. We are growingly becoming emotional disconnected. Disconnected, due to not being present, by being distracted, by not actively listening or by not showing empathy and compassion. The use of technology perpetuates this, where we may be remotely connected but that primitive emotional bond is not shared. We are often, simply cognitively connecting.
“Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives us purpose and meaning to our lives”
The Action for Happiness movement identifies that relationships are one of the key factors for happiness. They describe connections are important for belonging, growth and meaning. We also know social integration has many other physical health benefits. We are more likely to have reduced stress levels and stronger immune systems if we have good social bonds.
How do we strengthen our bonds?
Put down your phone, look away from your computer, reduce distractions and be present. Listening effectively means showing genuine interest in what that person has to say and giving someone your full attention.
Tips for good listening
- Find a place to talk away from distractions
- Use good eye contact
- Summarise what the person says, this emphasises how well you have listened.
- Show empathy (if appropriate)
- Be aware of your body, be open, don’t fold your arms, sit slightly to the side or walk side by side.
- Ask open questions
- Be aware of your judgements and don’t verbalise them.
Give positive feedback
Not only is it important to support our friends and family during times of hardship, it is equally important to be enthusiastic when they achieve or experience good news.
Be interpersonally effectively
We all experience challenges and conflicts in our relationships, we need to raise them to move forward and grow. The ability to communicate effectively and manage conflict is a skill. A great tool which people always find helpful comes from the world of Dialectal Behaviour Therapy. DEARMAN provides a great framework where you can raise issues, whilst maintaining self-respect.
Share how much you appreciate people. Thank them for the positive contributions they make to your life. A text, a letter or a simple gift to express your gratitude can be so powerful and it may encourage others to do the same. Even better, do it face to face!!
“I just wanted to take the time to say…I appreciate you, thank you for everything you do, its means so much”
Take a look at action for happiness’ challenge to get people to show appreciation for others
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