When I was growing up, I would often ask my Mum about how we were connected to certain relatives. For me, it gave me greater clarity as to who was who. But I was also fascinated with the thought that we were all part of a larger family.

My mum was a great example of how family are also the people you choose to love, even if you are not related to them. I remember two local girls who lived in our street who were frequent visitors to our home. These girls, Donna and Kim, were daughters of mum’s girlfriends, but they related to my mum as a second mother.

As fate would have it, I had a second father myself after my own father died. I latched myself onto Neil as a 12 year old and he and his wife, Pam, remain a positive influence in my life.

It is probably no coincidence that I also became a father-figure to another fatherless boy, Damian, who has been part of my family now for 25 years. When I compare the feelings I have for Damian with those for my own natural-born sons, Robbie and Jamie, I can tell you – the love is the same.

Where does this need for connection and belonging come from? Are we born this way? Is it in our genes? Has it served our survival and evolution? Wherever it comes from, this need for connection and belonging is fundamental to being human.

The research confirms that good relationships with others are the number one source of our well-being and resilience. However, the absence of positive relationships is also the primary cause of our misery and dysfunction.

So, we shouldn’t be surprised that people in high-performing teams often report …

  • Having very good relationships with their manager and colleagues
  • Feeling genuinely cared for by their colleagues
  • That more work gets done when they find time to talk
  • Important decisions are often made together
  • Open and honest, respectful communication is commonplace

And that people with poor morale at work, often say …

  • They have a strained relationship with their manager or a colleague
  • Frustrations with colleagues are not being dealt with well
  • They do not feel free to speak about their concerns with a particular person
  • Others are speaking or relating to them in hurtful or disrespectful ways

Nor should we be surprised that …

  • Children with learning difficulties do better at school when they are mentored and befriended by other students
  • Children who are exposed to intense and chronic conflict between their parents run a higher risk of depression and anxiety, regressed behaviour, and relationship difficulties in later life
  • People with mental illnesses have less intense symptoms when they are engaged positively with others in their community

So, what are you doing to build more positive relationships with others? And what will you do to better respond to frustrations when they occur?

We know that those who handle relationship difficulties well draw on a range of approaches rather than relying simply on a single strategy.