What is true connection?
As humans we are naturally social creatures. We like to feel valued and supported. Research shows social connection can improve both our physical and our mental well-being. From my experience as a coach, people feel the greatest sense of well-being, when they feel understood, valued and validated. This really involves feeling connected. Some research even states that lack of social connection is a greater risk to our health than smoking, obesity and high blood pressure.
So, what actually is a positive connection? A positive connection is when we feel fully understood and listened too, we can talk openly and honestly and we have full trust in the person we are talking with. Often we feel better after engaging with them people. Positive connections might look like having a chat over a coffee, going for a walk with a friend, or just simply spending time with someone.
Just pause for a moment and reflect on the following questions:
- How many connections have you made today (If you’re reading this early in the day, how many did you make yesterday?)
- How many were face-to-face and how many were virtual/ via technology?
- How many were positive? How many were negative?
- And how did different forms of connection make you feel?
Lack of positive connections can increase perceived loneliness. Loneliness has been a hot topic over the past few years, with COVID-19 and social distancing. It meant people had to find different ways to connect, but were they true connection? Did they have the same effectiveness as ‘normal’ connection? And yet, for many, working from home and virtual meetings has become the new normal.
When people experience loneliness, the region in the brain that is activated is the same as physical pain. Whereas, when people are surrounded by positive relationships they feel trust and fairness, the reward centre of the brain is activated.
The importance of positive connections at work:
We spend the majority of our waking hours at work. For a lot of us we spend more waking hours at work with our colleagues than at home with our family. Therefore, it is vital we feel connected and supported by our co-workers and leaders. It is scientifically proven that when you have positive human connections you are happier, healthier and more productive. Positive connections are vitally important throughout life and definitely can benefit the workplace. Whether an organisation falters or flourishes largely depends on the quality of the connections.
Research shows that workplaces with positive connections have better performance outcomes, less absenteeism and work more efficiently, plus greater well-being of employees. Positive connections at work can help to prevent absenteeism and there are many reasons for this. Lack of positive interactions is linked to a higher risk of ill health, including cardiovascular disease, depression and even a shorter lifespan.
The benefits of positive connections:
1. Mental well-being - As previously mentioned positive connections are important for our mental health, can boost our mood, reduce our stress and improve our self-confidence.
2. Improved Immune System - Positive connections can amazingly improve peoples immune systems. Positive connections can improve our ability to build, maintain and repair.
3. Improved Quality of Life – lack of positive connections has been associated with obesity, heart disease and smoking.
4. Increased Satisfaction – both in life in general and working life. The greater job satisfaction the longer people will stay with that company.
5. Improved teamwork – positive connections between co-workers leads to trust and respect for one another. People then start to rely on each other more and employees can bounce off of each other and learn from each other. Innovative thinking and inspiration.
6. Boosts team morale – This means people are more likely to look forward to coming to work rather than dreading it. An unfriendly or lonely working environment can be draining and the days can feel very long. This can cause distress and depletion.
7. Improved productivity – like we mentioned earlier, positive connections increase overall happiness and happier employees naturally tend to work hard and are more productive.
How can we create more positive connections?
- Try to actively listen to others. People will appreciate if you truly listen to them. The better you listen to them the more interested you will seem and you will be able to ask them questions which shows you are engaged in that conversation.
- Try to have conversations which aren’t always work related, get to know each other on a deeper level.
- Have a virtual tea break with colleagues if you are working from home.
- Part-take in some form of team building activities.
- Go for walks with colleagues on lunch breaks, sometimes it nice to chat to colleagues outside of the work environment.
- Encourage informal interaction so colleagues can get to know each other outside of just work.
Outside of work:
- Meet a friend for a coffee
- Make time to check-in with friends or family
- Volunteer in your local community
- Join a local group with a social element (a walking group or book club for example).
We now live in a world where there are more virtual interactions than physical. Social media and technology have been largely to blame for peoples lack of social connection, and the increase in loneliness. However, I know I was certainly grateful for technology throughout the pandemic. But even prior to the pandemic loneliness was on the rise. Is liking your friends post on Facebook true connection? We need to connect on a physical and emotional level for our well-being. Exchanging a text or a like on social media does not tap in to a deeper connection which can add to a sense of loneliness.
If you are feeling lonely, try some of the above tips. If you are struggling, make sure you reach out for support.