Close, meaningful and trusting relationships are important contributors to psychological well-being. Indeed, the relationship between social support with physical and psychological health is well-established in the scientific literature. Social support has been shown to benefit cardiovascular, endocrine and immune system health. One reason may be so is due to how such relationships provide a buffer against the demands and stressors of daily life. The same review highlighting these positive effects of social support also emphasize the importance of emotional support as part of these relationships . You might be able to think of some of your closest and most important relationships – perhaps with certain family members or friends. Thinking about how these relationships helps provide you with a sense of psychological safety, with an environment where you feel safe to disclose your most emotionally sensitive concerns and vulnerabilities.
The importance of relationships has also been studied in workplace environments. Workplace social reduced work strains, buffered against the strength of certain stressors, and also provided alleviation – reduction in the effects of workplace stressors . One new area of study concerns how we relate to our immediate managers and supervisors, and how the quality of our relationship with our bosses also has an impact on our psychological well-being. Employees don’t often leave because of organization – they do so because of how the relationship with their bosses have deteriorated to a point where it has become unsalvageable. Think of the boss whom you’ve enjoyed working with before, and the qualities that embodied his/her leadership style. Contrast that with a boss whom you detested – one that you absolutely dreaded working with. When participants in an experimental study were asked to think about these two different groups of leaders, they showed different brain activation patterns. Richard Boyatzis, the researcher leading this study, found that thinking of positive leaders activated parts of the brain associated with positive emotions and mood, as well as a sense of connection with these leaders. Recalling memories of disliked bosses activated parts of the brain associated with avoidance, lowered compassion and generally, negative emotions . What the science in this area is telling is simply, that relationships matter – they matter for our hearts and brains, which in turn impact on the quality of our psychological and mental health.
These similar neurological and physiological effects also shapes our relationships outside of the work environment. Building a social support system is important in both the personal and professional spheres. Here are three tips on how you can manage the relationships within your immediate social networks:
• Who’s in your social support network? Who isn’t? – Try mapping out your most meaningful and important relationships. List out also the individuals who you find to be part of your dissonant network. Identifying who you can count on, and who is adversely affecting you well-being helps you take stock of how your relationships are affecting you.
• Build your resonant network – A supportive and restorative network of relationships – what Boyatzis and his colleagues refer to as resonant relationships, can help you weather the demands of your lives. Why not seek out these individuals, connect with them on a more regular basis, and schedule a meet up with them?
• Manage members of your dissonant network – Consider what you can do to manage the members of your dissonant relationships – the relationships that drain you, diminish your overall enjoyment and maybe even put a strain on your health. Avoiding these individuals altogether may not be an option, but minimizing your interactions with them might be a useful first step. Consider also how you might alter your conflict management approaches with them the next time a disagreement flares up between the both of you.