Many of us interact through social media, which can be a great tool to stay in contact, but it doesn’t foster deep connection. For example, I might see on Facebook that my cousin Sara just had a baby. I find myself thinking “Oh wow, cousin Sara just had a baby, how nice.” Now I feel connected to her since I am informed about her situation. I also might reach out and say, “Congrats” on her Facebook page. A half-hearted-even-abbreviated congratulations with no substantial feeling or effort behind it. This might be enough to keep in contact, but is it enough to develop the relationship?
I get it, time is valuable. You only have so much every day, and it doesn’t roll over. This is one of the most common excuses I hear, and I even say it to myself occasionally when the question comes up, “Why don’t you stay in touch?” I remind myself that people make time for the things that are most important. So, if I am not making time for this person, then they must not be that important to me. When I hear it put this way, it gives me a jolt. First, I feel like a bit of a jerk because I realize, “You are not important” is the message I am sending to this person. Then, I commit to making it right.
To make it right and keep it right takes developing the right pattern of communication. And sporadic and infrequent surges into communication mode with long lost friends isn’t it. I am not saying you should spend hours upon hours on phone calls catching up with each and every person you know. I am saying that there are reasonable AND sustainable measures you can take to keep in touch with those you care about that don’t require immense amounts of time.
For example, if cousin Sara is someone I really care about and value in my circle and I see she just had a life changing event like having a baby, I can and should share in that with her by putting in more than a 1.5 second “Congrats” on her Facebook page. Can I call? Can I send a card? A gift? What can I do to share in this joy and cultivate our relationship?
Shelly Gable, a well-known researcher who specializes in connection, researched the key components to a successful relationship. She found that sharing in someone’s good news is one of the most important ways to build strong relationships.
In addition to strengthening the relationship, sharing good news also multiplies feelings of joy in BOTH of you. Even if it’s not your good news, reliving someone else’s joyful thing, even briefly, ignites a joyful state in you. Pretty crazy, huh?
Imagine if you decided to go around all day and ask people, even strangers, to tell you about their good news; it would light you both up, and you could essentially use their joy to make you more joyful ALL DAY. It’s like a free and cordless battery charger that can jolt you and the person you’re talking to into an immediate feel good mood!
How often do we access this wonderful joy button? Again, if you find yourself using that tired, “but I don’t have time blah, blah, blah” consider the message I said earlier, “You are not important.” Is that what you mean to say? I didn’t think so.
This process does not have to be time consuming. In the same amount of time it takes to half-heartedly listen to your spouse or child tell you about their day while you check your work email, you could have been boosting both your joy states and strengthening your relationship. Instead you tried faking your way through the conversation, felt no real shift in your own state and made no impact
Actually, that is not true. You did make an impact and it’s not the one you want to hear. The research shows that not sharing in someone’s joy erodes the relationship. Let’s unpack this a little more. If you are distracted, attempting to multitask, not making eye contact, etc., the other person can tell (even over the phone), and they don’t like it.
Think of it this way, can you tell when someone is doing this to you? I’m guessing that’s a big yes, so the same is true the other way around. The message: DON’T BE THAT GUY/GAL!
What to learn more about Joy to the World and other ways to obtain Wisdom. Download my book: Wisdom: The difference between good and great. You can find it here.