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    Pillar 2: Harnessing Social Connectivity

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    Resiliency Pillar 2: Harnessing Social Connectivity


    Your personal connectivity with others (i.e. friends, colleagues, and family) has a direct impact on your resilience. In Pillar 2 you'll learn several unique and practical strategies for building goodwill, and deepening and maintaining an effective social support network.

     

     

    If you had to predict the happiness or resiliency level of a total stranger, what is the single most important thing you'd need to know about them to be most accurate? The answer: the quality and quantity of their social support network.

    This resiliency key is so powerful that it alone accounts for a significant portion of your longevity, job satisfaction, productivity, and overall sense of well-being. [28]

    In fact, the correlation between strong social connections and these positive outcomes is higher than that for cigarettes and cancer!

    Why? Because all of us have a basic need to be psychologically "visible" to others, particularly our life partners, family, friends and colleagues. [29]

    Think about the happiest, most memorable times in your life. Perhaps getting married, having children, accomplishing some of your life goals, chances are high they all involved others in some significant way. And who did you rely on at your lowest points? Those you could confide in and were closest to you emotionally.

    In perhaps the longest scientific study of its kind in history, the Harvard Men Study, researchers followed hundreds of men from the 1930's until today. A major conclusion was that social connections mattered "more than anything else in the world" in terms of participants' long-term well being, health and happiness. [30]

    It doesn't matter who you are, man or woman, your relationships with others are as fundamental to your survival as air, food and water. They are like "force multipliers" that help you recover from challenges, bolster your achievements, and cause you to experience a sense of connectedness to something greater than yourself.

    When scientists measure the sense of well-being of the world's top 10% most happy people, the one factor that repeatedly emerges is the quality of their relationships with others. Even higher than wealth, education, gender, age, race or accomplishments! [31]

    And contrary to popular belief, your level of personal life satisfaction (i.e. happiness) is much more likely to "cause" you to be successful in every life domain than your successes are to cause you to experience sustained happiness. [32]


    Your Health is Your Wealth

    Social support is such a powerful need that lack of it leads to some very nasty consequences. It can drive up your blood pressure, suppress your immune system and significantly increase your susceptibility to depression and chemical dependency.

    On the other hand, positive social interactions actually calm your cardiovascular system, reduce the release of stress hormones (e.g. cortisol) and increase your stress tolerance. In addition, building these social bonds can increase your life span as much as regular exercise! [33]


    And At Work

    Enhanced social relationships increase mental focus and cause you to find more personal meaning in tasks that otherwise seem daunting or trivial. The same is true of work teams. A big predictor of how well teams function is simply how good members feel about each other as they work together. And some of the largest, most successful companies in the world now recognize the significance of employee social connectivity to their success. And ultimately, profits.

    Military experts have long been aware of the importance of unit "cohesion". And the number one fear of many soldiers is not necessarily death or injury, but "letting down" or disappointing their "band of brothers" (and sisters). [34]


    Giving to Get

    Some fascinating new research has identified two opposing styles of relating to others at work as leading to very different outcomes. The question has become not how much social support are you getting, but how much are you giving, which is under your control. [35]

    The first style, Work Altruists, put more effort into providing social support to others at work. The second, Work Isolators, provide the least amount. This includes simple things like inviting a coworker to lunch, asking them about their children or interests, offering to help them out in a crunch, or just making an effort to get to know them.



    Here are some of the findings:

     Work Altruists were ten times more likely to feel highly energized in their jobs. Only 5% of Work Isolators were.

     Over half as many Work Altruists got along "extremely well" with coworkers. Only 20% of Work Isolators did.

     Nearly two-thirds of Work Altruists described their relationship with their supervisor as "excellent".

     Only 7% of work isolators received promotions within the previous year, compared to 40% of others. Almost six times as many! [36]



    The Take Home Message?

    You can greatly increase your chances of advancing at work and receiving social support yourself by giving it to others!

     


    Opening "Emotional Bank Acounts"

    Here is another way to think about it. Some of the world's leading relationship experts emphasize the importance of making "deposits" in the "emotional bank accounts" (EBA's) of others in your life. [37] [38] These involve reaching out and connecting, often in seemingly small ways. A pat on the back, a thank you note, a word of praise, a kind gesture, an offer to help, a ready smile.

    Other ways deposits are made are to act with honesty and integrity, being understanding, and apologizing for mistakes made.

    By tending to the "balances" in your various EBA's, your investments grow with "interest". Over time you develop a "reservoir of good will" that will be there in times of stress or challenge, and allow you to make periodic "withdrawals" when the chips are down.

    When someone who has been there for us makes a mistake, we find it easy to overlook. But let someone who has ignored, dismissed or otherwise annoyed us do something wrong, and we often silently relish any bad fortune that comes their way.

    Your EBA's are like accounts of good will, affection, and trust instead of money. They require regular, ongoing deposits in order to remain strong and viable.


    A "Good" Chemical Dependency?

    Absolutely! When you give or receive emotional support, your brain actually secretes a very interesting chemical, Oxytocin. Oxytocin is often referred to as the "trust" or "love" hormone. It is associated with positive feelings toward others, reduced anxiety and improved ability to mentally focus.It has very protective health effects, particularly on your cardiovascular system and immune response. Oxytocin also causes you to reach out to others, either to give or receive support, both of which bolster social connectivity. [39] [40]


    By The Numbers

    Remember how our brains are hardwired to far more easily register and recall negative events?

    Well, some researchers believe it is possible to quantify a ratio of positive to negative responses (or a P/N ratio) that predicts the likelihood of success in your relationships, both at work and home. Though the exact math has become controversial, the consistency between separate researchers in completely different settings is high.

    For every negative interaction between colleagues, bosses and coworkers, some experts recommend approximately five positive ones to overcome that strain on relationships. And organizations that fell below a threshold positivity ratio have been reported to show poor morale, reduced employee engagement, diminished productivity, and even business failure. [41]

    Strikingly similar findings have been found in independent research on intimate relationships. In studies lasting for decades, scientists have been able to predict divorce with over 90% accuracy! When the P/N ratio falls below five to one between partners, the odds of marital failure goes up significantly. [42] In addition, the regular presence of specific communication factors dramatically decreases your chances of longer term success.

    Contempt, or communicating in a derisive, "superior" manner is particularly corrosive. It has been shown to damage the recipient's immune response as well as predict relationship failure. [44]

    Never underestimate the power of a sincere apology, or being forgiving. Everyone makes mistakes, even in the most loving relationships. The ability to "repair" that damage is hugely important, both as the perpetrator and the recipient, according to relationship science.


    Monkey See Monkey Do

    Ever wonder why yawning seems contagious? Why just watching a scary movie generates fear in the audience, even though they know the likely outcome; or how your boss's mood can bring the whole office down?

    In one of the most significant recent discoveries in neuroscience, the answer came from chimpanzees in Italy. Neuroscientists wired each chimp's brain to see which parts became active when they engaged in certain activities. What they found was that the same parts of the brain "lit up" in all the chimps, even when one group was simply observing the other! [45]

    This led to the discovery of "mirror neurons" which provide the biological basis for empathy and cause us to subtly mimic, albeit non-consciously, what we see others doing and, importantly, feeling.

    The speed at which these brain receptors operate is in terms of milliseconds, and they play a major role in picking up on subtle social cues as well as influencing our nonverbal actions (e.g. smiling, etc).

    Just like the "Tetris Effect", the implications of mirror neurons can be positive or negative. A number of hospitals, hotels and other companies, for example, set up protocols where employees simply smile at customers when within a few feet of them. The response from customers has been very positive, and led to ripple effects throughout the organizations. "Infectious" smiles, indeed. [46]

    On the other hand, mirror neurons also play a major role in negative emotional "contagion" which has been characterized as akin to "second-hand smoke", affecting all around it. [47] All it takes is one person in a small group, particularly a "negative extravert," to transfer their gloom to everyone else.

    You've undoubtedly been in a meeting where one or two people set the emotional tone for everyone else. Or you've looked forward to calling a family member or friend, only to hang up feeling as if you've been wrung out emotionally by their anger, sadness or tale of woe.

    But emotional and social contagion can also work in reverse. Just the act of smiling at others is not only a subtle mood boost for you. It activates the mirror neurons in those around you, and can lead to an upward cycle of positivity when done consistently. This is particularly important for leaders who understand that positive emotions within their work teams also translate into enhanced employee/customer engagement and higher productivity. [48]

    And the effects of emotional contagion have recently been demonstrated to occur at the Facebook/social media level. In analyzing over a billion responses worldwide, scientists demonstrated that both positive and negative social contagion take place, even when members simply made observations and comments about the weather! [49]


    Conclusions: The quality of your social support network has a tremendous impact on your level of personal resiliency and overall happiness. Like optimism, it boosts your performance in every area. The good news is, developing this pillar is fun and fast to implement.

     


    Assess your new learning by clicking on the link below and answering some brief quiz questions:

    Pillar 2 Quiz


    MAKING IT REAL: HARNESSING SOCIAL CONNECTIVITY

    Here are four proven social resiliency tools. You can start using any one (or more) of them right away to strengthen your social connectivity. Please read about all of them, then select one to begin with. As you grow your skill over a period of 21-30 days, you can select a second, and then others over time.

    With sufficient focus, you will begin to see rapid results whenever you apply these strategies. Like compound interest, they will "grow" your social "bank account" over time. This will infuse your relationships with a level of protective resilience to your benefit now and, potentially, throughout the rest of your life.

    Sabotage Alert !

    You can easily sabotage your resilience by telling yourself you "don't have the time" to practice these well-validated, scientific tools on a regular basis for 21-30 days. But the average person spends several hours a day watching television, playing video games, or surfing the internet. You know who you are!

    Surely you can adjust your schedule and build in 10-20 minutes per day to initiate some habits that can change your life. Don't settle for less!


    STRATEGY#1 SELF-ASSESSMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION PLAN



     Using the downloadable form, start by making a list of several important relationships in your family, work and social life. 

     On a 1-10 scale, put a number beside each name in terms of where you estimate your Emotional Bank Account balance to be currently.

     Identify specific opportunities to repair relationships or make new "deposits".

     Remember, you need to make several "deposits" to make up for one "withdrawal".

    Do it! Track and revise your progress chart over time, and it will soon become a valued positive resiliency habit!

     Print Strategy 1


    STRATEGY # 2 DYNAMIC POSITIVE RESPONDING (DPR)


    There is a great deal of emphasis placed on teaching people how to "assert" themselves when they feel put upon by others. But helping people you care about celebrate good news can be even more important in enhancing your relationships long-term according to Dr. Shelly Gable. [50] There are many opportunities to do it, and it feels good.Here is how it works.

    Say a colleague or family member says something like this to you: "Guess what!I just found out that I am getting a big tax refund this year. I'm so excited."

    You could respond by:

    1.Being passive "Good for you."(Showing little interest or excitement)

    2. Being critical:"Great; now you can figure out how to blow it like you did last time.?"

    3. Ignoring it (Actually the worst way): "Have you seen my wallet/purse?"

    4. Or You could use DPR! (Dynamic Positive Responding) E.g. "That's great news. I know you've been hoping that would come through. Any idea about how you're going to use it? Tell me about it.?

    DPR is adapted from Dr. Gable's "Active Constructive Responding" which has been well-researched, and shown to increase positive connectivity, compared to the other options. In fact, the others can be downright harmful to relationships, especially ignoring.

    Use DPR often, and watch what happens when people feel validated, respected and more psychologically "visible" to you.

    Download the attached form to help monitor your progress.

    Print Strategy 2

    STRATEGY # 3 REACH OUT!


    Your level of perceived social support from others is of tremendous importance to your job satisfaction, and even your chances of advancement. But instead of sitting around and hoping others become more supportive, what can you do to make it happen?

    Become a Work Altruist! And stop being a Work Isolator.

    If you don't give social support, you're not going to get much back. And your chances of advancement may dwindle.

    CHALLENGE:

     For the next 30 days, make regular efforts to engage in eye contact, smile and greet colleagues, friends and neighbors by name on a daily basis.

     Write down the initials of some individuals you work or regularly interact with. Make a point to reach out, over the next 30 days, and learn something new about each person; an interest, an achievement, some history, etc. Use the form, write it down, and periodically ask each about, or make reference to the information.

     If you have an opportunity, ask each of them if there is anything you can do to help, especially when they are particularly slammed with work or other obligations.

      Print Strategy 3

    STRATEGY #4: DEVELOP AN E-PPRECIATION RITUAL


    Even if you're just a little techno-savvy, you know how to send text messages and e-mails, right?


    CHALLENGE:

     Make a point before you start or end your day to send one brief note of praise, acknowledgement or admiration to someone you work or regularly interact with, or are socially connected to in some way:

     "Thanks so much for your help today, Tom"

     "Mary, Nice job on the project."

     "Hi Manuel, Congratulations on your good news!"

     "You're a real asset to the team, Bill"

     "Haven't seen you for a while, Amy. Been thinking about you."

     Be sure to use their name or title as appropriate. Also, don't underestimate the power of a brief handwritten card or "sticky note". Some consider this even more personal, leading to greater positive impact.

     Develop your E-P ritual over the course of 21-30 days, and it will become one of your most beneficial habits!

    Print Strategy 4

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