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Happiness: Yet Another Reason to Build Relationships

2 min read

If good relationships are the key to happiness, can the ability to build relationships be learned?

A friend of mine recently turned me on to a great story in The Atlantic entitled “What Makes Us Happy?” It is based on the Grant Study, a 72-year longitudinal study at Harvard University of 286 men who started college in 1937. The study follows these men from birth to old age, through wars, careers, marriages and illness. The survivors are now all in their 80’s, making this one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind ever.

When asked what he has learned from running the study for the last 42 years, psychiatrist George Vaillant, replies, “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships with other people.” He goes on to say, “It’s social aptitude not intellectual brilliance or parental social class that leads to successful aging.” Turns out that men’s relationships (and the study, as was typical of the time, includes only men) at age 47 predict late-life adjustments better than any other variable, except defenses.

If good relationships are the key to happiness, can the ability to build relationships be learned? At The Ariel Group we would say yes! In fact a good part of our work in the corporate world is about the ability to be present with and listen more effectively to our colleagues in the workplace. Many of our clients have told us they have practiced these same skills with their partner or kids to great effect outside of the office.

In case you haven’t taken one of our workshops (or maybe it was a while ago) here are some of the elements that create great relationships:

Three Elements of Great Relationships:

1. Listen Well
Most of the time we’re not fully listening…we’re re-loading, crafting an idea or preparing something witty to say next. During a conversation, try really focusing on what the other person is saying by listening for subtext, for what is really going on in that person’s life, for their values and strengths.

2. Acknowledge
It is important to acknowledge the person you are talking to. Not just as a potential customer or someone you need a favor from, but as a complete human being with insight, challenges and strengths that are worth really understanding. This is a great step toward building trust.

3. Share Yourself
Telling personal stories is a great way share yourself with others. People will want to engage with you professionally if they know you are human too. If you haven’t seen it already, check out our storytelling ebook for some great tips to get you started.

How have you used listening, acknowledging and storytelling to build relationships? Do you find happiness tied to healthy relationships in your own life?


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