Positive psychology researcher Chris Peterson, conducted a research on well-being and boiled it down to the most significant finding, he would say, “Other people matter.” So much of our happiness is contingent on others, whether that means sharing meal together, sharing a joke and laughing or performing an act of kindness to help someone in need.
Not allowing us to miss the full picture of this message, Chris often reminded his students not only that other people matter for us, but also that we are the “other people” who matter for others.
Here are three tips for building the quality and quantity of your relationships with others.
Focusing on their Strengths
How often do you stop to think about what makes the people you love so great?
Everyone has a set of signature strengths which include creativity, hope, bravery, and fairness. The ones they use most often and most naturally, and research shows that using your signature strengths in new ways boosts well-being. Take a look—a good look—at the people you care about and identify a few of their signature strengths. When you see someone act from a strength, name it. And then give them opportunities to use it more.
Acknowledging to Good News (Immediately)
Psychologist Shelly Gable has researched what makes relationships great. A big factor is how people respond when others share good news. In other words, what do you say when your partner tells you he just got a promotion, when your daughter brings home the math test she aced, or when a friend calls to give you the highlights of her vacation in Europe?
However, the other (better!) option is to respond actively and positively to the good news by asking questions and engaging the person to help them relive their excitement. This is called this “capitalizing”. When we capitalize with someone we care about, we strengthen the relationship both now and for the future. Next time someone you love has good news to share, take a minute to really listen and enjoy the moment together.
In their Shoes
In their shoes, that is. Have you ever sped past other cars on a suburban road because you’re running late picking up a child, thinking to yourself, “I don’t want him to worry. I better get there on time!”
But when you see another driver speeding past on a different day, you mutter, “What a jerk! Slow down!” When observing the behavior of others, we have a tendency to overestimate the effect of personality and underestimate the effect of circumstances. But when thinking about our own behavior, we do a much better job taking circumstances into account. Psychologists call this the fundamental attribution error. In the example above, we tend not to think about what might be causing the other person to speed. So next time you catch yourself judging someone, take a metaphorical walk in their shoes and ask yourself, “What circumstances might make them do that?” Approaching others with a foundation of understanding allows kindness to shine through and opens us to the possibility of new connections.