One of the top two factors peoplewise found when we asked senior leaders what factors had helped them most in the coronavirus pandemic was their relationships. This is probably not news to you, as you no doubt already realise that our relationships are critical to our wellbeing and ability to cope.
But did you know that benefits from strong social connections are found in every aspect of our lives, and are at least as important to our health as commonly recognised factors like smoking, drinking, obesity and physical activity. The Harvard Grant study, which has followed 268 men for more than 80 years, has shown that close relationships are more important than money or fame in people’s health and happiness in life. The only factor measured at age 50 that predicted the men’s health at age 80 was their level of satisfaction with their relationships.
Healthy social relationships result in measurable physical benefits like reduced stress, better healing, healthier behaviours and longer life. Helping someone else has been shown to be one of the quickest ways to increase your own happiness and wellbeing. On the work front, research indicates that one of the biggest factors in how effective and successful a team is (at all levels including the very top) is the quality of their relationships both within and outside the team.
It’s easy to become more isolated by accident, particularly given the social distancing that has been enforced around the world due to the Covid pandemic. We get caught up in work and focus on getting things done rather than building connections and improving relationships. We lose track of how long it has been since we met and talked to our friends, had fun with our families, or devoted time to the people we meet through hobbies or volunteering.
Here are three things you can do to increase your connections and strengthen your relationships:
- Give building relationships more priority. Whether at work or home, pay attention to building and strengthening relationships, not just completing tasks. Map your connections in a diagram, showing who you link to and how others link together. Review the map for where there are holes or weak patches, which relationships strengthen you and which don’t. Identify where you would like to develop stronger connections, or where you need to reduce time spent on one relationship so you can make time for others, and take action. Perhaps join a club or a class, call a friend, play with your kids, have a date night with your partner, show interest in your work colleagues. Then keep it up – relationships take time to build and deepen, so you need to be consistent in where you’re placing your time, energy and focus, to develop the connections you want.
- Listen better. When did you last feel truly heard and understood? Very few of us really listen when people talk to us. We may be thinking of how we can contribute to the conversation, respond to their points, or tell them what to do, be worried about how we may appear or just be zoned out thinking about something else. Next time someone starts a conversation with you, deliberately stop everything else you’re doing and thinking, and focus on the other person with an attitude of childlike curiosity. Listen with the intent to deeply understand what they’re saying and why they are saying it, don’t interrupt with your thoughts or ideas. Ask clarifying questions to help both of you build your understanding. Then summarise back to them what you’ve heard, to check that it’s correct. See what impact this has on your relationship with that person.
- Task-enable someone. Look for ways to help someone achieve something. What can you do to facilitate someone’s success or performance on a task or a goal? What can you show them how to do or teach them? Where might mentoring or coaching help? Who can you connect them to? Do be careful to make sure the person actually wants help, though!
In our webinar on 29th September we’ll discuss more about this and other secrets to gaining competitive edge while mastering your potential for happiness and success.
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