Happiness Club Articles

Happiness Club – Authentic Relationships

IMG_6020Connecting with others is a basic human need. Yet it comes with a risk of getting hurt.

So what’s the answer? How can we relate better to ourselves and others?

Have you heard of the Porcupine’s Dilemma? It goes like this:

One cold Winter’s day a company of porcupines crowded themselves very close together so as to profit from one another’s warmth and save themselves from freezing to death. But as they got closer, they felt each other’s sharp spines, which forced them to separate and get cold again. The porcupines were driven backwards and forwards from one trouble to the other until they found a distance at which they could most tolerably coexist – far enough from each other to avoid the sharp spines and close enough to maintain mutual warmth (German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, 1851).

And so it is with human relationships – we long for close and intimate relationships with others, yet we also fear getting hurt so we tend to build a protective wall around ourselves. Sounds familiar? Is there a better way?

Relationships matter. Studies have shown that positive relationships improve both physical and psychological wellbeing. Connecting with others improves our mood, provides support, increases feelings of self-worth, and gives a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. Positive relationships help to lower stress, boost immunity, reduce heart disease and increase longevity.

There is a strong correlation between positive relationships and happiness – people in positive relationships tend to be happier, and happier people find it easier to connect with others. Happiness is contagious across social networks – it spreads to people we know and in turn to people they know, creating happier communities.

Quantity is important but the key to happier relationships is their quality. Consider with how many of your “friends” or “followers” on social media you have real relationships?

Keys to building positive, strong and authentic relationships:

1 – Be authentic in your relationships – you can play a “role” only for so long. Set personal boundaries that you are comfortable with – based on your experience and gut instinct.

2 – Discover and share common activities and experiences.

3 – Communicate openly and honestly – to establish trust and respect. It is often better to say a “wholehearted no” then a “begrudging yes”.

4 – Maintain a giving/receiving balance – oversharing or being overly demanding can put a strain on a relationship.

5 – You cannot be everything to everyone – leave space for “you”, prioritise and manage expectations ahead of time.

6 – Put yourself out there – you will not make real friends by wishful thinking. In words of Nathaniel Branden “No one is coming” (The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem). Take responsibility and be proactive in building old and new positive relationships.

7 – Embrace differences, do not judge too quickly, forgive. You know the old adage “walk a mile in their shoes…”? The truth is you cannot, as their shoes might not fit and you might not choose the same path. So be kind to yourself and others.

8 – Keep your promises and say a timely “sorry” when it is warranted.

9 – Listen wholeheartedly and be curious.

10 – And if you get hurt? Try again. They are just not ready for you this time.

Above all – be brave and do not give up!

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