At a time when many are working from home, juggling family commitments and dealing with the accompanying double threat of the Covid 19 pandemic and economic disruption, nurturing strong positive relationships at work has never been more important.
The need for connection is deep in our evolutionary roots. It’s a basic human need as important to our survival as air, food and water. Loneliness, the feeling of being disconnected or isolated from others, is painful and triggers the same reaction as if we have experienced physical hurt.
Conversely, when our relationships at work are founded on trust, fairness and cooperation we feel rewarded by enjoying higher levels of dopamine that motivate us to engage in behaviours that promote mutual respect, confidence and competence. When you’re in the presence of someone you like, your brain releases higher levels of oxytocin signalling you’re with someone trustworthy.
Creating deeper connections at work requires removing potential barriers and setting up more opportunities for social interaction.
- Promote face-to-face interaction
While real face-to-face interaction is best, our digital technologies are great at enabling social connection. They provide a quick and easy way to connect team members to check on progress and ensure all is well. Virtual meetings work best when scheduled to be frequent and short and a mixture of formal and less formal.
- Take the time to connect
We’re all busy but it only takes a few seconds to pause and connect with a warm smile and eye contact. Saying hello, using the person’s (correct!) name and enquiring how they are acknowledges you’ve seen them and are interested in them as a person.
- Be consistent
We build trust through our observable behaviours. Being reliable, staying true to your word means others can depend on you. Showing yourself to be fair and honest in all your dealings with others strengthens bonds.
- Show respect
We are all different and hold our own unique world perspective. While it is unrealistic to expect everyone to share our opinion, staying open to hear someone out and to listen without judgement is a gift. You don’t have to agree, but by listening in this way you keep the doors to useful communication open, which is vital when working together to reach a negotiated agreement or compromise.
- Be kind
We care deeply about what others think of us, which is why an unkind remark, a throw away comment or having a colleague roll their eyes is so hurtful. We hate feeling incompetent or being made to feel stupid. If an error has been made, address it in private. Although, celebrating the success of your colleague can be shouted from the roof tops! Calling someone out for doing well makes everyone feel good.
Kindness includes those small gestures that are so appreciated, like remembering someone’s birthday or offering to help out when a colleague is overwhelmed. Generosity is infectious. So spread some positive germs by seeking to undertake one small act of kindness every day.
- Have compassion
Noticing when a colleague is highly stressed or unhappy is a time to provide your support and understanding and seek to alleviate some of their stress. This might take the form of organising some additional support, communicating your concern and being willing to help.
- Retain empathy
We all seek to be heard and understood. Empathy is a powerful social force that helps us to understand and relate to each other. When you show you understand how someone is feeling because you can relate to their emotions, it forges strong social bonds and helps them to move forward.
The strength and quality of our relationships bring us health and happiness and lead to a greater sense of meaning and fulfillment. That’s why focusing on deepening all our social connections helps you to cultivate a good life and a Thriving Mind.
Dr. Jenny Brockis is the author of Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley). She is a medical practitioner, board certified lifestyle medicine physician specialising in brain health, mental wellbeing and human connection and a keynote speaker. Visit http://www.drjennybrockis.com