• Dr. Vin

Relationship Booster Shot: Upping the dosage of positivity with others



Even strong relationships can benefit from increasing positive interactions. This is true at home, with friends, or at work. Too much negativity can erode a once strong relationship. Neglect can also become a habit and slowly destroy a relationship. Why neglect? Because being ignored is often interpreted by the other as being disliked. Feeling neglected can make us pull away and become distant.

Humans, like all mammals, thrive in community. From the love hormones oxytocin and vasopressin passing between a mother and her nursling, to the reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, when in the warm company of safe others, we are wired to thrive best in the bosom of caring others.

Here are some verbal and physical ingredients to boost your relationships:

  1. Give a compliment.

When someone in my family has a birthday, I may send them a message that includes a compliment about their special qualities, or what I appreciate about them. Yesterday was my niece’s 32nd birthday. I wrote, “You are on fire, with your career…you are a bright, compassionate wonder woman! Enjoy your day.” You might want to try this for the next birthday in your family or friend group.

Compliments fit in all settings. If you look around you can usually find a way to compliment a co-worker (on a job well done?), a friend (maybe their kindness or patience?), a child (did a chore without being prodded?), partner/spouse (their looks today? their way of acting loving?)

  1. Ask about their day.

I do not like to ask a child or working adult in my family, “How was your day?”, because they are often likely to say, “fine”. End of conversation. Just to hold their attention a bit longer I ask, “What happened at work today?” (which makes them dig deeper). I might ask a school age child, what was the best or worst part of their day. This way if they want to debrief their day, I am there to listen. This often helps them let go of their stresses and feel lighter in the present. At work, you can ask about your co-worker’s previous evening or their vacation or recent events in their life.

  1. Verbal or physical affection.

When we were young, we kids would huddle together on the floor in the living room to watch tv or play games. Wrestling play was called, “mauling.” Once we got tired we leaned into each other on the carpet or couch to rest. Our parents called this, “the puppy pile”. After my mother’s funeral 10 years ago, many of us, though full grown adults, grabbed sleeping bags and slept all piled together in that same living room to soak up our grief in each other’s familiar warmth.

Verbal affection is any kind of statement from the heart, such as, “I like you” or “I love you”. Physical affection varies in what is appropriate in each setting and each relationship. We are most spontaneous with those we feel safest with. If you are not prone to be affectionate, try something easy, like a pat on the shoulder. Take a breath and focus on the other person. If they seem to be receiving your affection, good. They will feel more positive and so will you.

  1. Give a surprise.

I know that when one of my sisters shows up at my house she will be handing out little gifts she got here and there in her travels. This just happened: My husband came home from work with a surprise gift for me, LIFE magazine special edition, “Paul at 75”. My favorite Beatle! Yeah! A positivity booster shot!


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