People matter. How to build better relationships.

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This year has been remarkable in a variety of ways. But one of the things that we’ll remember (aside from “lockdown hair”) is how it’s brought us closer together.

There’s a simple reason for that. We’ve evolved to be social animals. We suffer when we’re apart, and according to research, loneliness is more harmful to us than things like obesity, smoking, exercise or nutrition.1

In fact, renowned psychologist, Chris Peterson, summarizes the whole of positive psychology with just three words: other people matter. So, whether we’re going through good times or bad, sharing it with other people makes things better. It’s proven.2

This isn’t just about romantic relationships or close family. It’s about all the people in your life. Your neighbors, co-workers, friends and clients. Working on your relationships will not only make them feel good, it’ll have a massive positive impact on your own health and happiness.

The key to all good relationships is communication, but many of us are unwittingly sending the wrong signals when we interact with people. And over time, that can be damaging.

But there is good news. In fact, how we respond to good news is key to building deeper connections. Here are some examples of the various types of conversations.

Active constructive

Mary: I’ve just had an amazing call with my boss.
Joe: Really? That’s great. Why was it so good?
Mary: Well, first he told me that I’d aced the pitch, and then he said that he’d like to work more closely with me on the new project.
Joe: I’m so excited for you. You really deserve this. When does that start?

This conversation is clearly pretty positive. Both of them are sharing the joy. Mary feels supported. Joe gets a buzz from sharing the good news. Happiness abounds.

Now let’s see how this conversation could have played out differently.

Passive constructive

Mary: I’ve just had an amazing call with my boss.
Joe: Oh really? I just had a call with my boss too. I don’t like him much. He always picks holes in my grammar.

See what happened? Joe ignored the good news and actually made it about himself. Mary probably ends up feeling unheard, annoyed, or at best confused.

It’s really easy to fall into this and it usually starts with the best of intentions. The responder is trying to be empathetic by sharing a piece of similar news, but ends up hijacking the conversation.

There are two other forms of conversation that you might want to avoid.

Passive destructive

Mary: I’ve just had an amazing call with my boss.
JOE: Really? That’s nice.
[silence]

Here, Joe acknowledges the news but fails to engage at all. Mary feels brushed off, sad, disappointed and maybe a bit guilty.

Active destructive

Mary: I’ve just had an amazing call with my boss.
Joe: I doubt any call with him could be amazing. I really dislike him. In fact, I don’t know why you haven’t left. You should think about it.

This is where the responder finds fault with the good news, and degrades, minimizes, or squashes it. Effectively making the good news into bad news.

Here, Joe turned Mary’s positive news into a negative conversation. Making her question herself in the process. 

Depending on our mood or who we’re speaking to, we’ve all adopted these types of responses at one time or another. But it’s repeating the same style over and over that does the damage. With the last example, how likely is it that Mary will ever share something with Joe again?

Here’s a quick reminder of the different styles of conversation.


Destructive and constructive matrix

 

There’s no doubt that this year has been stressful for all of us, and our relationships have the power to sustain us through good times and bad. Being aware of how we respond to each other is a simple way to deepen every day interactions and build long term happiness. And that’s good news for all of us.

 

BRING MORE POSITIVITY TO YOUR LIFE MENTALLY AND FINANCIALLY

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1Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review”, March 2015, Sage Journals: Perspectives on Psychological Science.

2Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review”, March 2015, Sage Journals: Perspectives on Psychological Science.

3What is active and Constructive Responding”, Go Strengths.com December 2018

 

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