Through her work in palliative care, Bonnie Warefound found that one the most common regrets which came up over and over again among those facing the end of life was "I wish I could have stayed in touch with my friends."
It was not money or status that they were concerned about. It was not about the comfort of familiarity, keeping the peace, or what other people thought of them. It all came down to the courage of living an authentic life, happiness, and ultimately love and relationship.
Relationship is so powerful that our connection to others has become "the new religion of our time," suggests relationship expert and author Esther Perel. People worship relationships prescribing extreme importance to them as if they were some "superhuman controlling power." In fact, it is understood that relationships, like religion, offer the path to what psychologist Abraham Maslow first called self-actualization and has since been revised to include transcendence (existence or experience beyond the normal). In other words, it is through relationships where we learn to become the best version of ourselves in hopes to move beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary.
We are wired for connection. More than any other human experience, it is the bonds we create with other people that give our lives not only purpose and meaning, but an overall sense of happiness and well-being. Simply put, it is the quality of our relationships that ultimately determine the quality of our lives. Navigating and cultivating relationships is key in all parts of our lives both personal and professional. And understanding relationships is essential if we are going to thrive in our ever changing world.
It hasn’t always been like this. Relationships such as marriage for example, used to be simply for survival. We married for safety, security and economic gain. We married to reproduce. We married so we would not be alone. Within this social construct, people knew who they were. They had a strong sense of identity, rootedness, continuity, and belonging. Rules and expectations were clear; duty and obligation certain. All the big decisions were made for them. They were rarely alone, but they were also rarely free. This is still true in many parts of the world especially in more collective societies.
But as the world changes into a more individualistic social construct, not only do we marry for love, we marry to find purpose and meaning. We marry to go beyond, rise above, and transcend the ordinary. We marry to become the best version of ourselves. And when the relationship no longer serves this purpose, we leave. This new construct allows for more freedom, yes, but also leaves us with the heavy burden of defining ourselves. Who am I? What do I want? Can I be better? Can I be more?
This relationship revolution is not only happening on the personal front. People are also leaving their jobs. If they do not feel that there is growth opportunity, for example, they leave. If they do not feel valued, they leave. If they feel as if their identity formation is being stunted, they leave. Perel explains that people leave a company to improve the quality of their lives, for self-development and to achieve self-actualization. “We don't just leave a company because we are unhappy,” says Perel, “we leave so we can be happier.”
Perel explains that within the relationship revolution, “Conversation has replaced rules. For the first time, we are in deep conversation with each other, but the rules of the conversation are not clear.”
If we are to have a quality experience at work, one that feels as if we are making a difference in both our own lives and the world, conversation requires certain soft skills or intelligence's--personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people--also known as relational intelligence (RQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ). Studies show that when we have high RQ and EQ, our relationships flourish and so do we. In addition, we have more energy, more focus, less drama, more joy, and not surprisingly, we are more productive!
So how does one acquire and/or improve their relational (RQ) and emotional quotients (EQ)?
First and foremost, remember that your co-workers are people too. They have feelings just like you. Second, being self-aware and/or conscious of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires is essential to understanding others, the core of any good relationship. And third, managing emotions is a key factor in successful relationships whether at home or in the office.
Here are some things you can do to incorporate empathy, self-awareness and emotional regulation into your relationships:
Have a robust emotional vocabulary so that you can identify and manage your feelings
Be a good listener and ask the right questions
Try to walk in your co-workers shoes and understand their perspective
Avoid making assumptions and give your colleague the benefit of the doubt
Embrace change; keep a growth mindset
Let go of mistakes (your own and others); don't hold grudges
Self-care (eat healthy, exercise, and get lots of sleep)
Control negative self-talk
And get to know each other. Perhaps a chat in the break room or taking time out for team building.
Your relationships matter. They matter so much, we expect them to lead us to self-actualization and transcendence. Although these suggestions to build a higher RQ and EQ may seem simple, they require a certain amount of mindfulness. We need to be intentional about improving our relationships in both the home and at work especially as the power of relationships become more significant, while at the same time the rules of engagement become more ambiguous. In this way, not only will we be more apt to get along with others, we will feel a much stronger sense of belonging and higher purpose, essential elements in our overall happiness and well-being.