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Relationships: it's all 3's and 4's

At PDP, we’re all about relationships. Every training course we've developed has been underpinned by 'The 4 Levels of Relationship Theory' by founder of PDP, Paul Oginsky.

  • Level 1 is the relationship you have with yourself: your self-esteem, self-respect and self-worth.

  • Level 2 is our interpersonal relationship with other people that we know in our lives. If you have great self-respect and self-esteem - then you're going to have better relationships with those around you.

  • Level 3 is recognising how relationships interplay with each other. How they are dynamic, how they happen around you and the impact you have on them and them on you.

  • Level 4 is the relationship we have with the concept of community or society: a sense of belonging to humanity.

When Robert J. Waldinger, an American psychiatrist and Professor at Harvard Medical School shared his findings from the Grant Study, a longitudinal study on adult happiness: we listened. The study is based at Harvard and has been running continuously since 1938. Here’s his three lessons that he shared from his Ted Talk.

The first is that social connections are really good for us and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family to friends to community are happier, physically healthier and they live longer than people who are less well connected. The experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic. People who are more isolated find that they are less happy - their health declines earlier in midlife. Brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.

We know that you can be lonely in a crowd, and you can be lonely in a marriage so the second big lesson that we learned is that it's not just a number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you're in a committed relationship. It’s that the quality of your close relationships that matter. It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health: high conflict marriages for example without much affection turnout to be very bad for our health perhaps worse than getting divorced. Living in the midst of good warm relationships is protective. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 where the healthiest in their 80’s. Good close relationships seem to buffer us from some of the slings and arrows of getting old. Our most happily partnered men and women reported in their 80s that on the days when they had more physical pain their mood stayed just as happy but the people who were in unhappy relationships on the days when they reported more physical pain it was magnified by more emotional pain.

The third big lesson that we learn about relationships is that good relationships don't just protect our bodies they protect our brains. It turns out that being in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80s is protective. The people who are in relationships, where they really feel they can count on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories stay sharper longer. The people in relationships where they feel they really can't count on the other one the people who was the experience earlier memory decline. Those good relationships they don't have to be smooth all the time some of our octogenarian couples could bicker with each other day in and day out, but, if they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn't take a toll on their memories.

So, we know that good close relationships are good for our health and wellbeing. This is wisdom is as old as the hills – but why is it so hard to get and equally so easy to ignore this knowledge? We're human: what we'd really like is a quick fix, something we can get, and it'll make our lives good, but relationships are messy and complicated. It’s hard work of tending to family and friends.

People in the 75-year study who were the happiest in retirement or the people who had actively worked to replace work mates with new playmates. This study has shown the people who fared the best where the people who leaned into relationships with family, friends, colleagues and with the community.

Robert J. Waldinger ends his talk sharing some wisdom from Mark Twain, more than a century ago, Mark Twain was looking back on his life and he wrote this:

"There isn't time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that. The good life is built with good relationships."

So, I’m asking you – what’s your relationship like with your work colleagues? Do you believe you have one? Can you lean on them in times of chaos, disorder, or stress? Do you spend time nurturing those relationships and investing in them?

Relationships are like rainy day bank account. You need to deposit something in, to withdraw something out when you really need it. If you need help to develop those relationships and building a robust and authentic team – get in touch, we can help.

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