Wrapping up Positive Relationships

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about well-being. 

A quick recap of last week before we continue.

Last week, we continued exploring High Quality Connections (HQCs) and concentrated on play as the fourth pathway to developing the dynamic energy of a HQC (1). While play is often seen as frivolous, in reality, it is far from frivolous. It is a vibrant pathway to HQCs! 

Play is innate and natural, yet we tend to forget it’s importance to develop connection and relationships in adulthood. We tend to separate work and play in our minds. Work hard. Play hard. Well, why not play at work? Even though play at work has some special considerations and more research is needed to understand these implications, research supports that play is associated with increased connection and engagement (1).

Last week, I invited you to bring your inner child to the surface and adopt a sense of play by thinking of three small ways to be playful and build connective tissue in your organization or community (1). Did you accept my invitation? If so, what did you notice? What did it feel like to be playful? And how did your sense of play impact those around you?  I hope you enjoyed engaging your sense of play to build HQCs! 

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This week, I want to step back and review what we have discovered during our time exploring positive relationships!

As humans, we all derive well-being from a sense of mattering and the ability to contribute value to those around us (2). Adding value helps us feel valuable and creates a virtuous cycle that builds our feelings of capability (2). In short, other people matter.*

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Yet, not all relationships are created equal. Some relationships support our well-being, while others tend to drain it. We all long to feel seen, heard, and valued. So, what contributes to positive relationships? Over the past seven weeks, we have discovered that research supports the following:

1. Dyadic relationships are essential for one’s well-being and overall satisfaction with life (2). 

2. Listening is key. To engage in Other-Focused Listening, intentionally place yourself in the role of the listener and ask yourself “What about this matters to the person sharing?”** 

3. Mattering matters. When we share or receive stories in our relationships, it is a bid for or opportunity to offer understanding, validation and caring (3).

4. Perceived support is important! Different people feel supported differently. Perceived support is both personal and dynamic, so communication is essential. Aim to show others that they matter by offering understanding, validation, and caring (3).

5. We all have a ripple effect. What’s yours? Acknowledge the power of social contagion and the potential of an upward spiral of positive emotions (4, 5). 

6. How you respond to both positive and negative events in your relationships matters. It turns out, that we want to know that our loved ones will be there for us when things go right as well as when things go wrong (6).

7. Capitalize on the positive (7)! Active Constructive Responding (ACR) or engaged and authentic responses to positive experiences is a uniquely helpful way to respond, because it uses all three components of responsiveness for perceived support: understanding, validation, and caring (8). 

8. ACR can enhance the degree to which positive events are experienced and increase both positive affect and overall well-being (8). How? Positive emotions broaden and build our resources (5) creating an emotional contagion that impacts those around us (4). When we share good things with someone else and make a bid for support (3), we offer them an opportunity to capitalize or enhance our positive emotion (7). Using ACR helps us capitalize on positive emotions and create an upward spiral that strengthens our relationships (4, 5, 6, 7).

9. No BS! Remember, ACR only works when it is authentic. We all have a keen internal radar for inauthentic expressions of support or general BS (8).

10. High Quality Connections (HQCs) build vibrant connective tissue and support well-being (1). 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 HQC (1).

11. There are four main pathways to develop a High Quality Connection (1):

  • Respectful Engagement - Sending a message of value and worth to someone else. 
  • Task Enabling - Helping another succeed.
  • Trusting - Conveying belief in another.
  • Play - Having fun with another!

12. As a human, we are all sensitive to signals about our worth. Respectful engagement signals to another person that we see them as valuable or worthy and builds HQCs (1). 

13. Task enabling greases the wheels for someone else’s success. It’s comprised of multiple strategies that facilitate another person’s performance and builds a HQC (1). 

14. Trusting is yet another way to build the dynamic energy of a HQC. It means acting with integrity, dependability, and benevolence towards another (1).

15. Play can breathe life back into organizations and communities that are experiencing energy depletion and fuel the energy of HQCs (1).

Phew. That’s a lot of learning! I hope you can see that whether you are hoping to positively impact a close relationship or create a positive interaction with a stranger, positive psychology offers concrete tools to help us develop positive relationships.

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This week, I invite you to start by developing or bolstering a positive relationship with yourself. Self-care is vitally important. It is hard to give what you don't have. Once you have filled your own cup, branch out, and incorporate the tools above to develop positive relationships with others.

Start small. Small interactions matter. Simply pausing to listen to someone sends a signal of worth to those around us. It's a gift. So, take time to listen. Then, see if any of the other tools we have explored together may be helpful. 

Open up and remember, one thing we all have in common is a desire to be seen, heard, and valued. 

I hope these past few weeks have given you ideas and tools to cultivate positive relationships! I look forward to seeing you next week as we dive into Meaning!

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


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

2. Prilleltensky I. Promoting well-being: Time for a paradigm shift in health and human services. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 2005; 33(66_suppl), 53-60.

3. 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.

4. 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.

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

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

* “Other People Matter,” is a quote from Christopher Peterson, an esteemed professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and science director of the VIA Institute on Character.

** Special thanks to Andrew Soren for his tips on “Other-Focused Listening”.