Engaging in 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 examined the question ‘Grit or Quit?’, because sometimes we all need to pause, take stock, and ask ourselves if we ought to continue engaging in our current path (1). Sometimes, continuing to engage in an activity is harmful to our health and well-being (2). When that is true, letting go is the most courageous thing you can do. 

Colloquially, grit is often confused with rigid persistence. Our culture supports a ‘never say die’, ‘keep calm and carry on attitude’ that does not necessarily support well-being (1). These beliefs makes it easy to feel like a quitter when a pivot may be best. The world is full of change, and so are we. There is no shame in transition. Let yourself evolve. Emotional agility helps us do this, and arises when we listen deeply, reassess, align actions to values and are flexible when circumstances alter. It means we are willing to pivot when the need arises (1).

Last week, I invited you to answer six questions when faced with a ‘Grit or Quit’ moment (1). Did you accept my invitation? If so, what did you discover? I hope this exercise helped you align your values and actions as you made a decision on how best to proceed. 

This week, we’re going to wrap up our time exploring Engagement and pivot towards positive relationships. 

Let’s take a moment to review what we’ve discovered about Engagement!

  1. Engagement is neither good nor bad. It all depends on what we choose to engage in.
  2. You can make yourself happy or miserable based on the contents of your consciousness (3). 
  3. Attention is a powerful tool to improve well-being, yet it is a limited resource (3). 
  4. Attention can be focused and developed through intentional practice (3). 
  5. Flow, the optimal experience of engagement, is a delicate balance of skill and challenge between boredom and anxiety (3).
  6. Passion comes in two forms: Harmonious and Obsessive. Both types of passion increase persistence (2) and deliberate practice (4), which can lead to success.
  7. Only Harmonious passion increases well-being with an increased openness to experience (5), positive adaptation in moments of failure (5), vitality (2), better coping mechanisms (6), creative achievement (7), flow (8), and the absence of public self-consciousness (8). 
  8. WWYWW is an exercise that helps align your desires, values, and actions. *
  9. Grit is one thing, rigid persistence another (1).
  10. Emotional agility helps us ride the waves of transition and cultivate well-being (1).

I hope these few weeks have helped you discover ways to follow engagement, align your values to your actions, and support your well-being. Did you harness your attention? Find flow (3)? Pursue harmonious passion (2)? And practice emotional agility (1)? I invite you to continue to engage in the process of becoming.

Now, it is time to turn our attention to others and engage in positive relationships!

Other people matter. 

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We derive well-being from a sense of mattering and the ability to contribute or add value to those around us (9). Adding value helps us feel valuable and creates a virtuous cycle that builds our feelings of capability. 

Western cultures tend to place a lot of attention on individual well-being. While we all have a need for autonomy, control, and achievement we tend to spend less time cultivating relational and communal well-being (10). Yet, a balance of all three helps protect us from loneliness and depression while cultivating a sense of well-being that can weather the storms of adversity. Social support is critical for resilience (11).

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Not all relationships are created equal. Some relationships support our well-being, while others tend to drain it. We long to feel seen, heard, and valued. Invisibility, privilege, inequality, and helplessness are all barriers to relational and communal well-being (9). But what contributes to positive relationships? 

Let's start by engaging Other-Focused listening. 

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We tend to use Self-Focused Listening in our daily lives and ask ‘What does this mean to me?’ while in conversation with others. The goal of Other-Focused Listening is to find the story behind the story. Ask yourself: What is important about this for them? **

So this week, I invite you to practice Other-Focused Listening three times. Try it out with a friend or loved one. Then, with a colleague or someone you don't know as well, and if you have the opportunity, with someone you are meeting for the first time. Engage. Take the time to really listen and see what happens.  

Your goal as the listener is to find the body of the ‘iceberg’. The visible top of the iceberg is made of behaviors, words, and actions. The body of the iceberg is below the water line, and is made of an individual’s beliefs, values, strengths, attitudes, feelings, and needs. When practicing your Other-Focused Listening this week, tune in and search for the body of the 'iceberg' beneath the surface. 

Here are some tips to get started!


·       Block out distractions.

·       Do not multi-task.

·       Design your environment.

·       Consciously put yourself in the role of the listener.

·       Notice your own thoughts.

·       Get curious!

·       Make a discovery…


·       Look for emotion.

·       Listen for a sigh.

·       Is there incongruence between what someone says and what you sense?

·       What does their body language, tone of voice, and/or pace of speech expose?

I hope you enjoy intentionally being an Other-Focused Listener this week! You never know what you might discover! In the coming weeks, we will explore what works well in positive relationships and discover some concrete tools to become better partners, siblings, neighbors, friends… as we develop positive relationships! Until next Monday, I hope you have a lovely week. 

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


1. David S. Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. Penguin; 2016.

2. Vallerand R, Blanchard C, Mageau G, Koestler R, Ratelle C, Léonard M, Gagne M, Marsolais J. Les passions de l'ame: on obsessive and harmonious passion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003; 85(4), 756-767.

3. Csikszentmihalyi M. The anatomy of consciousness. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience (pp. 23-42). New York: Harper Perennial; 1990.

4. Vallerand R, Salvy S, Mageau G, Elliot A, Denis P, Grouzet F, Blanchard C. On the role of passion in performance. Journal of Personality. 2007; 75(3), 505-534.

5. Lafrenière M, St-Louis A, Vallerand R, Donahue E. On the relation between performance and life satisfaction: The moderating role of passion. Self and Identity. 2012: 11(4), 516-530.

6. Rip B, Fortin S, Vallerand R. The relationship between passion and injury in dance students. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science. 2006; 10(1-2), 1-2.

7. Luh D, Lu C. From cognitive style to creativity achievement: The mediating role of passion. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. 2012; 6(3), 282. 

8. Carpentier J, Mageau G, Vallerand R. Ruminations and flow: why do people with a more harmonious passion experience higher well-being?. Journal of Happiness Studies. 2012; 13(3), 501-518.

9. 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.

10. Prilleltensky I. Wellness as fairness. American Journal of Community Psychology. 2012; 49(1-2), 1-21.

11. Reivich, K, Shatté, A. The resilience factor: 7 keys to finding your inner strength and overcoming life's hurdles. Random House Digital, Inc; 2003.

* Special thanks to Dr. James Pawelski’s course Foundations of Positive Interventions and the Master’s of Applied Positive Psychology Program at the University of Pennsylvania for introducing me to this exercise, it’s benefits, and the best practices for it’s use.

** Special thanks to Andrew Soren for these wonderful tips on Other-Focused Listening!