I started a lecture this week on our friendships and how they impact our lives. I seriously was like 2 slides in before I had to stop and beat my chest screaming to the heavens, “DID YOU GUYS HEAR WHAT I JUST SAID?” This stuff is LIFECHANGING, so you’re welcome.
Our close relationships to others, are one of the biggest influencers on our lives. I have a best friend at work, (shout out to Dr. DeRose HOLLA) and it turns out that friendship is actually a major depicter on whether or not I feel connected to my job. In a Gallup study it was found that only 30% of employees report having a best friend at work, but that those who do are 7x more likely to be engaged with their job. They submit higher quality work, have a higher wellbeing, and are even less likely to get injured. In contrast, those without tight workplace relationships have a dismal 1 in 12 chance of being engaged.
Basically the best thing you can do as a boss, is foster a climate in which workers feel connected to one another. When I feel safe where I work, I am more likely to be productive. I am not worrying about who is trying to take my credit, who is trying to steal my job, or who is out to get me. I feel a sense of community, and therefore all the energy that I would have spent worrying about social threats, are able to go to my being a productive employee. We have to consciously create families, workplaces, communities, and a Country where people feel safe and valued. It turns out someone else’s wellbeing, actually promotes your own self-interest. Human beings are wired to be socially reliant creatures. One member’s downfall, will erode the entire group dynamic.
I have been studying social science for over a decade, and I am telling you, if you ask any social scientist what is the meaning and purpose to life, they will always tell you that it is connection. Connection brings meaning and purpose, and it turns out that mental health is connected to physical health.
A team of researchers wanted to study this and so they brought 42 married couples into a hospital and created several small wounds on their arms. They then placed devices over the wounds to measure the rate of healing. The results revealed that it took almost twice as long for the wounds to heal for couples who reported having hostility in their relationship. Stressful relationships could be stunting your growth.
I was discussing this with my students when we came across the definition of friendship as is crafted by Dr. Joseph DeVito, “Friendship, is a relationship between two interdependent people that is mutually productive and characterized by mutual positive regard.”
#PressPause. Did you read that? In order for your relationships to be friendships, they have to be BOTH mutually PRODUCTIVE and experience mutual positive regard. Our friends should make us better people. They should enhance our productivity as human beings, and they should affirm our self-concepts. Want to know traits of a productive person? It is someone who is inspirational, focused, and a problem solver. If your friends are keeping you unfocused, unmotivated, and uninspired, they are literally the opposite of the friendship definition. Friendship and social ties, is what makes human beings productive. This is true both by evolution standards, and Christianity principles.
Also noteworthy: People tend to pick friends that are similar to them. Proximity rule of close relationships says that like attracts like. This is key because often you will hear people say, “oh that’s just my friend, they are a little racist, sexist, or homophobic, but I’m not.” Or that’s just my friend, they are a little rude, don’t mind them.” Unfortunately, it probably is a lot like you, because like tends to attract like. Essentially when Grandma told you “birds of a feather flock together,” she wasn’t wrong. Want to be a kinder better person? Make a kind and loving friend.
So yes, friendships are crucial and relationships are vital to your health and well-being, but it’s important to be cautious with who you let into your intimate circle. Gallup found in their 50 year long study of well-being, that the single biggest predictor of what leads to higher well-being, is not what you are doing, but whoyou are with.
Likewise in a 20 year Harvard study it was found that your physical health is more determined by relationships than the food you eat, the exercise program you are on, and the genes you inherited. So stop spending hours at the gym, and then hanging out with friends who cause you drama and problems. They’re toxic to your health. Your social ties don’t just reveal a lot about who you are, they directly impact who you will become.
I have few people that I call true friends. But the people who I call on bad days, are the same people who create my good days. I like to think that I am a kind, loving, service oriented woman, and I can attribute that to the beautiful women that I call friends. So thank you for making me better.
I hope you can say that to your friends as well.
Heather is the author of 5 Christian books including Life AfterEden available now.