Being Positive in Relationships

Researchers have found that most of our happiness comes from our relationships – around 70%. Thus, it is in our best interest, as well as the interest of others around us, to develop and maintain positive relationships. It is truly a win-win scenario.
Researchers in psychology and related fields have found that in order to cultivate positive relationships, we should aim for a ratio of at least 3:1 positive/supportive comments to negative/critical comments. This is true whether it is in friendships, romantic relationships, or work groups. Relationships characterized by negativity not only lead to greater distress and unhappiness, but creativity and work productivity are stifled as well. Predominantly positive relationships help us to better connect with one another-happiness resides within relationships.
If we reflect on this, we can all readily find evidence that it is true. For example,

  • Think of the times that you were happiest in life. And I mean truly happy, not just feelings of sensory pleasure. Were you with others or by yourself?
  • Are some of these happiest moments were when you were with loved ones or strangers?
  • How about your unhappiest moments? Where these by yourself? When a romantic relationship ended? You moved away from your family and friends? When you lost a loved one?
  • How do you feel when you are criticized? Rejected? How does it affect your behavior? Your mood?

So, you don’t have to just take my word for it, you can reflect on your own experiences to know, at a very deep level, that positive relationships have a huge impact on our well-being (again, as well as that of others). If we can accept this to be True (capital “T” intended), then what is next? Now comes the more challenging part: what to do about it? For this knowledge to be helpful…to really make an impact…it must be put to use. If this knowledge does not inform our actions, then it is rather useless.
From personal experience and working with hundreds of clients, I’ve come to believe that it is critical to create specific plans or action items in order to manifest changes in our lives. For instance, if we say to ourselves we are going to “eat better” this year, what does that mean in practical terms? Without making more specific plans, it is very difficult to put our good intentions into action and to hold ourselves accountable (and give ourselves credit!).
So, with regard to creating more positive relationships with others, here are a few ideas:

  • First, put a reminder somewhere, maybe even in several places, to help you to remember to be more positive in your relationships. The saying I like to use for my marriage that works well for me is, “Happy wife, happy life.” Reminders in your calendar, sticky notes, or cell phone screen backgrounds can work well too.
  • Start keeping a journal and record at least 3 instances per day of being positive with others. This very act will help you to become more mindful of being positive toward others on a daily basis.
  • Think of actions that your significant other, a good friend, or your children do that you truly appreciate…but have not openly appreciated enough. Make a point of saying one thing positive to that person on a daily basis…picking a different action to remark on each day. I think, in general, it’s better to notice an action than an attribute…something the person can control (e.g., keeping up with yard work) than an attribute they have (e.g., blond hair).

There is truth in the saying, “what comes around, goes around.” It’s kinda like the idea of karma and the Christian concept that we “reap what we sow.” Putting mindful effort into being more positive in our relationships with others is guaranteed to improve our own level of happiness as well as those around us.

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