Updated: Aug 30, 2019
“We should always have three friends in our lives: one who walks ahead, who we look up to and follow; one who walks beside us, who is with us every step of our journey; and then, one who we reach back for and bring along after we’ve cleared the way.” Michelle Obama
Healthy relationships with others that encourage you to be the best version of yourself is a priority for life satisfaction. Relationships are one of the top main sources of happiness. Therefore, we need to pay special attention to the closest people in our lives in order to remove those who do not serve us. An important way a counselor can measure their clients well-being is by asking the question, “How are the quality of your relationships?”. Researchers have determined that the top 10 percent of happy people are socially active and have positive connections with others. There are many different ways to maintain healthy friendships and positive connections in your social life. In this blog post, I will provide three different ways you can use Positive Psychology -the science of what makes people happy- to keep you satisfied with your relationships.
The first way to maintain positive connections is to focus on good qualities of the people you are in contact with. Humans are prone to the “negativity bias”; which essentially means that we give more weight to negative experiences over positive ones. When we are not happy with someone, it is easy to focus on the negative attributes that person has, rather than what you love about that person. A good way to nurture your relationships and shift your focus from the negative is to remind yourself of the positive attributes of everyone you have regular contact with. You can do this when you are experiencing a disagreement with a friend or to regain the spark that was lost in an old relationship.
The second way is to remain mindful of how we communicate with other people. According to Dr. Shelly Gable, a psychologist and professor, there are four main communication styles in relationships. The four communication styles are 1) Passive and Constructive, 2) Passive and Destructive, 3) Active and Destructive, and 4) Active and Constructive. Passive and Constructive communication is when you respond to others with low supportive energy, but are responding accurately to the conversation. For example, this could be when you are on the phone with a friend and they are telling you about their day. You may be responding to them with the occasional “okay” or “that’s nice”, but your attention is on scrolling your facebook newsfeed. Passive and Destructive communication is when you ignore what someone is telling you and change the conversation to your needs. For example, your neighbor could be telling you she is getting married and your response may be, “Okay. I am going on vacation in two weeks”. Active and Destructive is when you are paying attention to the conversation but make comments that are not supportive or encouraging. For example, your co-worker could tell you that he received a promotion and you respond, “I thought you hated this job”. Lastly, Active and Constructive is when you are responding to the person accurately and offering them support. For example, your partner tells you that he scored a goal in his soccer game and you might respond, “That's great! You are an amazing soccer player!”. Do you see how this response differs from the others? The goal is to use Active and Constructive communication in every conversation you have with people in your life. By using this communication style, you let that person know you are giving them your full attention and are invested in the conversation. This will make the person you are talking to feel valued, thus generating many positive impacts on you relationship.
The last way to maintain positive connections is to initiate acts of kindness in your relationships. Acts of kindness is all about doing good deeds for other people in your life and can take many forms such as running an errand for someone, giving someone a gift, smiling at strangers, and many more. My favorite and simplest way to perform an act of kindness is by giving out compliments. Generally, people love to hear kind words of affirmation. People want to surround themselves with other who are kind because it makes them feel good about themselves. Also, spreading kindness to others will help attract and receive kindness back. It is important to remain genuine in your actions. Acts of kindness are not only beneficial for the person you are kind to, but research has shown that it can boost positive emotions within ourselves when we are helping others. However, if you are not genuine with your actions, you may begin to dread performing acts of kinds. You want to avoid this at all costs.
The three ways that you can maintain positive relationships using Positive Psychology is to 1) remind yourself of the good qualities in others, 2) be mindful of your communication style, and 3) spread kindness within your social circle. Give them a try and you will begin to see a positive shift within your relationships!