Building Authentic and Meaningful Relationships
With the rise of virtual communication, here are 3 things we can look at to build positive relationships.
Recently, I had the privilege of being invited to speak on two virtual webinars – one entitled “Handling Relationships amidst the Circuit Breaker” and the other “A Positive Workspace in the Home Space”.
The common thread is that both touched on the importance of building positive spaces and positive relationships, which in the end, made me dig deeply inwards to ask, “what else can I do in my own life”?
Tapping on my knowledge of Emergenetics (the science of understanding how people prefer to think and behave) and applied positive psychology, I narrowed down to these 3 things that will hopefully encourage you to take steps to discover how to build more positive spaces and relationships in your life:
#1 Spotting our Strengths
There are many psychometric tools out there that help us understand ourselves and others more effectively. If you haven’t had a chance to take any of them, I would strongly recommend that you don’t go over-board with it.
Taking two or three reliable and valid instruments that measure different characteristics will be a good idea. Emergenetics measures thinking and behaviours, Clifton Strengths or VIA Character Strengths measures your character strengths and even a non-psychometric instrument such as the 5 love languages might be useful for specific purposes like improving relationships.
In Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence Model (2002), he reminds us that building emotional intelligence starts with self-awareness.
Once we have a certain level of self-awareness, it helps us develop empathy, self-control, adaptability etc that will help us be more socially aware and able to manage self. This includes being aware of our emotional triggers, needs and blind spots, but it also makes us much more aware of our strengths.
When we spot strengths in ourselves, we end up using our own strengths more regularly which results in greater flow, effectiveness and we end up being happier and more energised.
When we spot strengths in others, and take the time to explain and appreciate them, it leads to a more positive relationship being built.
Bottom line: Awareness without action is pointless – the self- and other- awareness that you developed needs to be actioned upon. Strengths spotting is a great way to do this.
#2 Building Culture
Famous management consultant and author, Peter Drucker, once said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
This is so true, not just in the business sense of it. If the culture we work, live or play in is a toxic one, any amount of positivity, awareness or strengths spotting will ultimately be in vain.
This is when we need to take a pause and a few steps back to ask, “how can we create a positive culture to thrive in?”
There are many approaches – I suggest using norms to develop positive mindsets.
In 2012, Project Aristotle studied 180 teams throughout Google to figure out what made some teams more successful than others.
After following the teams for over a year, researchers found that team norms had the biggest impact on team success. Norms are basically a set of expectations and behavioural standards that shape member interactions. They should be easy to understand, observable and agreed upon my everyone. My favourite norms surround the fundamental mantras of “Assume Positive Intent” e.g. “When in doubt, ask”, and “Adopting a Growth Mindset” e.g. “We do not blame, we find solutions”
Bottom line: Culture can make or break your strategies and actions. Take time to develop norms in each of your formal and informal groups you work, live or play in.
#3 Minimising Conflict, Maximising Positivity
One of the common misconceptions about positive psychology is that it’s all about happiness. It isn’t. Positive psychology helps us enhance positive emotions and experiences and also helps us cope better with negative emotions and experiences. Many of these misconceptions are also contributing to a new wave of positive psychology dubbed Positive Psychology 2.0 which aims to paint a more “balanced, interactive, meaning-centred and cross-culture perspective”.
Understanding that positivity isn’t just the absence of negativity is important. Just because we remove negative relationships or avoid negative events doesn’t help us experience positivity. We need to proactively and intentionally create positive emotions and experience as much as to reduce the negativity or conflict in our lives.
There are many things we can do – gratitude exercises, forgiveness (letting go), holding space etc. Again, pick something that resonates with you and try it out. Practice is habit-building and building habits will change behaviours.
Mindfulness plays a big part in helping us adopt more positive behaviours – I speak often about practicing a mindful pause. This allows us to move from “reacting” to “responding” as we shift our brains from limbic to cognitive. This makes it easier for us to practice strategies such as Active Constructive Responding, among other things.
Bottom line: Don’t just focus on removing negativity. Work also on building positivity. This is the difference between surviving and thriving.
I often remind others that I’m not an expert – I’d rather be known as a practitioner because I am still practicing and will continue to do so in my quest to lead a life that brings positivity to others, and to build authentic, meaningful relationships especially with those I work and live with.