At some point, nearly every single adult has experienced a wonderful, close relationship with someone whom they love to be around. Many have also experienced a highly contentious, hostile, or distant relationship with a person they gradually come to dread being near.
Any relationship with a person that you must interact with frequently can impact your wellbeing if you let it go unresolved. While sometimes there are unfortunate situations that you can do nothing about, more often your actions and responses can shape and change every single relationship that you have.
Good relationships improve your health across many areas including heart health, insulin regulation, and immune system function, reducing your risk of many significant health problems such as depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, cognitive decline, and dementia (1). Healthy relationships can even help you to live longer (2).
Luckily, we know some key behaviors that can improve your relationships, emotional wellbeing, and even your physical health.
Communicate honestly and effectively.
It is important to be aware of the message you are sending beyond your words, including body language, tone, and even your specific choice of words.
It may seem obvious, but the exact same words will be received very differently when sent through text or email, vs. face-to-face or via video calls.
It is important to also remember that communication is not just speaking but also includes active listening, or conscious listening. This type of listening involves being completely focused on the other person, with the goal of truly understanding what they are trying to express, while letting go of your own instinctive reaction to respond, fix, argue, blame shift, etc.
Be authentic and self-aware.
People gravitate towards authentic individuals. Everyone has a bad day at some point but if you are self-aware, your stress, anger, sadness, or bad mood will not be blamed on those around you. No one can expect to be happy all the time but if you acknowledge those days when you are feeling grumpy and let those around you know it’s not about them your mood might shift more quickly than going around pretending everything is great when it isn’t.
Be honest, trustworthy, and dependable.
Without honesty and trust, a healthy relationship at any level is simply impossible as trust fosters effective communication and cooperation.
Dependability is an extension of being trustworthy. If you say you will do something or be somewhere at a specific time and then make excuses or show up late you are sending the signal that you are not trustworthy in this area, and this may subtly erode an otherwise thriving relationship.
Appreciate others’ efforts.
Voicing appreciation tells the person that they are both noticed and valued, and everyone enjoys knowing they and their work are appreciated. Appreciation is an excellent motivator. 80% of employees are willing to work harder for an appreciative boss, and 70% said they’d feel better about their efforts if their boss thanked them more regularly (3).
Interestingly, people also feel greatly appreciated when you actively listen to what they say and show that you understand what they are sharing.
Take responsibility for your actions and how you respond.
This involves identifying your triggers and learning how to own and express the emotions that result, so you can more quickly move onward. At the same time learn not to take other people’s triggers personally because, most often than not, underneath their trigger is something that has nothing to do with you.
If you can learn to catch yourself, express when you notice feeling triggered, and take a deep breath before reacting, your relationships will become much healthier.
Let go of the small things.
This is closely related to not allowing yourself to be easily triggered and to appreciation. The more you allow something to annoy or anger you, the more sensitive you will become to it and the more contentious your relationship with that person will become. On the other hand, if you focus on what you appreciate about the person, you train your mind to notice positive aspects, and the better your relationship will become.
Letting go of small things also allows you to live a more calm, peaceful life, which ultimately enables you to be more emotionally and physically healthy.
Resolve the relationships that impact you most.
While many people see the value in trying to improve relationships with family, friends, and significant others, it isn’t as common for most of us to intentionally try to improve relationships with colleagues.
It may seem pointless to improve workplace relationships if you are in an environment that fosters competition and every person looks out only for their best interest, or if you are in it only for a paycheck.
Think about it this way, though. If you spend an average of 40 hours a week at work (and some of us work far more than that) then nearly a quarter of each week is around the same group of people. Wouldn’t it be far better, and less stressful, to have positive relationships with your colleagues?
In fact, thriving workplace relationships are so crucial that The Gallup Organization states that “the evolution of quality relationships is very normal and an important part of a healthy workplace.” Over a multi-year study, they found that one of 12 items indicative of highly productive workgroups is the statement “I have a best friend at work" and those who do are much more likely to be engaged and expend more effort in their job.
Try shifting your focus for a month or two and incorporate these elements in key relationships at home and at work and see how much better your environment, stress levels, and sense of fulfillment can be.
Casa Alternavida was founded on the principle that there are healthier, “alternative” ways to balance life and work. This alternative is to stop the unconscious addiction to stress, overwhelm, and struggle to focus on a healthy, balanced lifestyle that yields better results. Our practitioners are trained to support you with unraveling those unconscious commitments so you can actively create the lifestyle you want to be living, take charge of your well-being, and reset bad habits. We are experts at creating playful experiences in nature that inspire deep personal insight and long-term positive behavior change. Teams walk away from our facility with new excitement for their projects, practices to work smarter, and a deep appreciation of their companies. If you are a business that cares about your employees and wants to enhance your workplace culture, we are dedicated to providing alternative ways of building resilient leaders and teams.
1. Cohen, S., & Janicki-Deverts, D. (2009). Can We Improve Our Physical Health by Altering Our Social Networks?. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 4(4), 375–378. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6924.2009.01141.x
2. Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS medicine, 7(7), e1000316. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316
3. Glassdoor Team, Employers To Retain Half Of Their Employees Longer If Bosses Showed More Appreciation; Glassdoor Survey