Organizations implement rigorous strategic planning processes because they know they can’t pursue every possible goal. They have to make critical choices in order to focus their business on those objectives which provide the best opportunities for success.
Similarly, if you want to be healthier and perform better at work, you should consider developing a strategic plan for improving your personal and professional relationships, because more positive relationships offer an exceptional opportunity for achieving success in both of these areas.
The evidence concerning the central role of positive relationships in promoting improved health is consistent and unambiguous:
- Data from a study of 309,000 people found that lack of strong relationships increased risk of premature death from all causes by 50%
- Social connections not only give us pleasure, but also can influence long-term health as much adequate sleep, a good diet and not smoking.
- Positively connecting with others reduces harmful levels of stress which can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation and the immune system.
- Social isolation has a profound influence on health and mortality risk. Research summarized in an article in the Harvard Business Review has demonstrated that “while obesity reduces longevity by 20%, drinking by 30%, and smoking by 50% loneliness reduces it by a whopping 70%.”
The payoffs of positive relationships are not limited to the health benefits. There is some very compelling business research that demonstrates that having positive relationships with colleagues is also a key element to success in our work lives.
According to studies coming out of Carnegie-Mellon and M.I.T. (not exactly epicenters of the “touchy-feely” school of business management) having positive relationships with your coworkers is much more than a “nice to have” luxury item; it is an essential element of high performing teams. Practically everything a business needs to do in our hyper-connected warp speed world needs to be done by teams of people. This evidence demonstrates that it’s not enough for the people on these teams to be intelligent, skilled and task-focused.
To perform at the very highest level the people on these teams also need to like each other.
This research adds up to good news because developing more positive relationships is a health and performance improvement strategy that anyone can implement: it’s inexpensive and it requires no special equipment or facilities.
So what are the behaviors you should work to cultivate if you seek to develop more positive relationships?
Psychologists have observed that people in positive relationships:
- Listen to each other
- Communicate openly and without judgment
- Trust and respect each other
- Consistently make time for each other
- Remember details about each other’s lives
- Engage in enjoyable activities together
These 6 attributes of positive relationships are not complicated but they require sustained focus, commitment and effort to achieve. Without consistent effort and attention, relationships can deteriorate due to the “wear and tear” of daily life, conflict and, perhaps most of all, inattention.
Which relationships in your life do you want to improve: spouse (or intimate partner), parents, siblings, co-workers, friends, boss or children?
We live in a world of compelling and constant distractions and it is easy, in this environment, to lose sight of what is most important to us.
When it comes to having positive relationships the stakes couldn’t be higher- both our health and success at work depends on them. Don’t let yourself lose sight of that.