One Thing We Can All Do to Strengthen Our Relationships
Do this now to build stronger connections.
Posted Nov 30, 2019
Acknowledging, appreciating, and respecting differences in other people is incredibly important. Regardless of the differences—be it someone's upbringing, ethnicity, belief system, political alliance, or overall worldview—we should listen to each other and seek to understand by asking questions and allowing one another the opportunity to express ourselves. This is where kindness and love come in.
However, in a world that is becoming more and more divided, especially politically, if all we do is draw attention to and emphasize our differences, the chasm becomes even greater. We know from research that what we give attention to becomes even stronger. We grow more of what we feed and focus on.
Building Bridges and Forging Connections
What if instead of focusing on differences and what divides us, we turned our attention to what unites us? This is what ran through my head Thursday morning as I ran across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, which connects the city of Philadelphia, PA, with Camden, NJ.
Like the bridge that runs across the Delaware River connecting two disparate communities, I began thinking of what it is that connects us to one another. Is it our beliefs, background, or physical appearance? Or rather is it more inherent qualities that make us human?
While we all have different interests, perspectives, and experiences in life, we all share a common core of what makes us human: We all want to be seen, heard, understood, and ultimately loved.
How can we focus more on these basic needs?
One way is to focus on our intrinsic strengths, so we can use them on a daily basis to do good and help make the world a better place for everyone.
Positive psychology researchers have identified 24 character strengths that have been valued across time and cultures. Qualities like kindness, curiosity, creativity, leadership, and love. The good news is that we all have strengths. And we have them in unique configurations. Our strengths are what make us us. (You can find out your top five strengths, commonly referred to as your signature strengths, by taking the free VIA strengths test here.)
Once you identify your top strengths, start practicing using them on a daily basis, which has been associated with greater well-being. Research finds that when you use them in your relationships and help others to facilitate their own strengths, you will likely build stronger bonds.
Using our strengths and helping others to use theirs is something we can all do to forge stronger connections and build cohesion. Imagine a world in which our collective strengths are put to practice every single day for the benefit of the greater good.
By focusing on what unites us rather than what divides us, we can begin building bridges across a great divide, fulfilling our fundamental human need to be seen, heard, understood, and loved.
Pileggi Pawelski, S. & Pawelski, J. Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love that Lasts. (2018). TarcherPerigee.