High Quality Connections & Respect

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about well-being. 

A quick recap of last week before we continue.

Dyadic relationships are essential for one’s well-being and overall satisfaction with life (1). Last week, we dove a bit deeper into perceived support and discovered that how we respond to both negative and positive events matters (2, 3). We explored a tool called Active Constructive Responding or ACR as one way to improve communication and build trust in relationships. 

ACR is an engaged and authentic response to someone who shares a positive (or negative) experience (1). It is a uniquely helpful way to respond, because it incorporates all three components of responsiveness for perceived support: understanding, validation, and caring (4). Further, ACR increases both positive affect and overall well-being (1). In this way, ACR capitalizes on the good stuff and generates an upward spiral to strengthen our close relationships (5, 6) by building trust and intimacy (1).

Did you accept my invitation and notice your response to a loved one when they shared good news last week? Then, did you practice using ACR? If so, what did you discover? Do you have a tendency to be active or passive? Constructive or destructive? I hope you were able to let your authentic enthusiasm show and assist a loved one in savoring the good stuff (7)!

This week, I want to -

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High Quality Connections or HQCs offer another pathway to develop positive relationships through moments of simple connection. The research on High Quality Connections is grounded in the premise that the energy and vitality of an organization depends upon the quality of the connections among the people within it (8). While most of this research has been conducted in formal work environments, I believe these principles can be used in any organization large or small -  at home, at work, and in your communities. 

You know a High Quality Connection when you have one. You can feel it. HQCs demonstrate mutual regard, trust, and active engagement from both sides (8). These connections help you feel open, competent, engaged, and energized. One key here is that HQCs are not just formed within our close, intimate relationships. In fact, any point of contact with another person, from a loved one to a complete stranger, has the potential to be a High Quality Connection. 

How?

Think of it this way. Energy is a renewable resource that helps us act and feel capable of action (8). It is also the fuel for an organizations and networks. Like ACR, HQCs spread energy and well-being between people through capitalization (5) and the broaden and build theory of positive emotions (6).

We’ve all seen how a bad apple impact a group dynamic. Similarly, you have probably seen someone grow into a positive force within a group (9). Learning to build HQCs can help you become an engine for good no matter where you are. Good news! Your actions don’t need to be grand gestures. In fact, small actions can make a big difference and add up over time! An email, a smile, an introduction, or a sincere thank you can all act as energizers to point of connection.

Let’s take a closer look!

There are four main pathways to developing a High Quality Connection:

  1. Respectful Engagement - Sending a message of value and worth to someone else. 
  2. Task Enabling - Helping another succeed.
  3. Trusting - Conveying belief in another.
  4. Play - Having fun with another.
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This week, I want to focus on Respectful Engagement. 

Respectful engagement is at the heart of a High Quality Connection and can happen in a number of ways. Being present, genuine, and/or affirmative can build respect in a moment of connection. What does it look like? It looks like listening effectively or offering supportive communication. It looks like attention, focus, and availability, a willingness to act authentically, an interest in another’s value or strengths, and/or a moment of empathy, support, or recognition. Respectful engagement happens in moments where we treat another’s time as valuable, make requests rather than demands, or use descriptors rather than evaluative statements while giving feedback. These are all examples of ways in which we honor another’s worth and act respectfully (8). 

Respectful engagement is needed by all, but not always given to all.

As a human, we are all sensitive to signals about our worth (8). Respectful engagement signals to another person that we see them as valuable or worthy. This type of connection builds feelings of worth in the other person and allows a secure basis for interaction. On the other hand, disrespectful engagement can zap our confidence and make us withdraw from interactions. Either way, our actions have a ripple effect and impact those who interact with us (9).

How do you show respect?

Our attention and availability are a precious commodities! Simple as it may sound, when we give someone our full attention, it signals respect and worth (8). Likewise, if we make ourselves available and take the time engage others respectfully, it signals to the other person that we value our connection with them. This is particularly powerful when someone in a leadership position reaches out to engage someone who is a bit lower down the ladder (8). 

We are all in "leadership" positions from time to time. The hello to your doorman in the morning or the “thank you” you give to the person making your coffee at the cafe matters. Folks in positions of service can often get overlooked. When done well, service roles often goes unnoticed. Perhaps their role is so expected that it becomes unappreciated. Every role is vital to the function of an organizations and communities, so be mindful of your interactions and aim to actively demonstrate respect to everyone.

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Non-verbal cues are chopped full of information. Tone of voice, body language, facial expressions, eye contact, and gestures all help us gauge another’s perspective (8). Take a moment to imagine your superior with their arms crossed as they lean into one hip as they tap their foot. If you happen to be in charge, think back to when you were a child and your parent or guardian assumed these postures. What did it indicate? Now picture your superior standing in front of you, relatively still in a relaxed neutral position with their arms at their sides leaning slightly forward. How does it make you feel? I hope you can see (and possibly feel) the difference. Which body language do you think opens the door to a High Quality Connection with respectful engagement?

Communicating genuine affirmation is another way to set the stage for a positive High Quality Connection and demonstrate respect (8). It requires looking for what is best in someone else and expressing value for that part of them. It can be a game changer. Sometimes it looks like recognition or a compliment. Any way you slice it, when it is genuine, it matters. This is yet another wonderful way to show and build respectful engagement.

Simply showing genuine interest in another can also build this vibrant connective tissue (8). Ask about someone’s day, their family, hobbies, or personal interests. It's an easy way to engage and show value. All the better if you are able to follow up on an upcoming event they may have mentioned or remember and use the names of their partners or pets. This kind of engagement and follow up can easily get lost in the daily interactions of a work environment or be seen as frivolous. But it is far from frivolous, it energizes connections and clearly demonstrates care.

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This week, I invite you to think of a recent interaction with a peer, boss, employee, or customer. Take a moment to visualize the interaction. Really picture it. Then, consider if this was a moment of High Quality Connection and examine your respectful engagement. Answer the following questions for yourself and the other person from your perspective.

  1. Did you/they convey presence with attention and availability? 
  2. Were you/they being genuine? Did it feel authentic?
  3. Did you/they listen effectively? Did it feel open and engaged?
  4. What was your/their non-verbal communication like?
  5. Did you/they demonstrate affirmation, interest, or support?
  6. Finally, what did you notice after this connection: Increased energy? Positive regard? Felt mutuality? Something else?

If your interaction was less than ideal, make a commitment to infuse energy into this connection over the next week and choose one of the many pathways to build a High Quality Connection through respectful engagement that I have described above. Perhaps you will choose to modify your body language, share your time and attention, or offer genuine affirmation. Whatever you choose, intentionally integrate it into your daily interactions and pay attention to the reaction of the other person after you connect in a respectful, engaged way. What do you notice? 

I hope you enjoy integrating High Quality Connections through Respectful Engagement this week, and I look forward to seeing you again next week to continue to explore HQCs! 

As always, gratitude for the expertise of the following resources.

References

1. Gable S, Gosnell C. The positive side of close relationships. In K.M. Sheldon, T.B. Kashdan & M.F. Steger (Eds.), Designing positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward (pp.265-279). New York: Oxford University Press: 2011.

2. Reis, H, Shaver, P. Intimacy as an interpersonal process. In S. Duck & D. F. Hay (Eds.), Handbook of personal relationships: Theory, research, and interventions (pp. 367–389). New York: Wiley; 1988.

3. Gable S, Reis H, Impett E, Asher E. What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2004; 87, 228–245.

4. Gable S, Gonzaga G, Strachan A. Will you be there for me when things go right? Supportive responses to positive event disclosures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2006; 91(5), 904-917.

5. Langston C. Capitalizing on and coping with daily-life events: Expressive responses to positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1994; 67, 1112–1125.

6. Fredrickson B. Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity, and thrive. New York: Crown Publishers; 2009.

7. Peterson, C. A primer in positive psychology. New York: Oxford University Press; 2006.

8. Dutton J. Energize your workplace: How to create and sustain high-quality connections at work. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 2006.

9. Fowler J, Christakis N.  Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: Longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study. British Medical Journal, 337, a2338; 2008.