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As coaches, one simple truth guides the majority of our practice: to coach the person, not just address the problem.
This simple but evocative idea underlines the importance of looking at the holistic picture of a person's life, because it isn’t just the experiences that they have or the choices that they make that will ultimately impact their life – it’s the quality of their relationships.
Among all factors, positive relationships stand out as a cornerstone of well-being, a fact supported by both anecdotal wisdom and scientific research – let’s dive into the science of it all!
The Science of Human Connection
Humans are inherently social beings, and our well-being is deeply intertwined with the quality of our relationships.
Studies across various disciplines have consistently highlighted the direct link between positive social relationships and well-being, particularly through the lens of positive affect. Positive affect—emotions that are cheerful, energetic, and joyful—plays a crucial role in how we make decisions and take action.
When people engage in social activities and feel connected to others, they experience a boost in positive emotions, enhancing their ability to pursue goals and navigate the challenges of life.
The Impact of Relationships on Well-Being
The relationship between social activities, connection, and positive affect is undeniable.
People report higher levels of positive emotions when engaged in social interactions and when they feel a strong sense of connection with others. This connection not only fosters positive emotions but also supports individuals in their journey towards their goals.
The question then arises: how can we, as coaches, leverage this knowledge to support our clients effectively?
Your Inner Circle vs. Your Outer Circle
Universally, most humans spend too little time with the people who they care about the most.
Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse who counseled the dying in their last days, famously made an effort to register the most common regrets her patients had at the end of their lives. Her research revealed that the top five things that dying people regret the most is the lack of time they spent in their relationships with friends.
Ware’s discovery on the focus of friendships is significant because it relates to the level of closeness and significance that clients assign to specific relationships. Most people have social networks that include both an “inner” and “outer” layer.
The outer layer are the folks in our every day community and the inner layer represents folks that our clients can easily identify as very important.
While interactions within the outer layers can fulfill a basic need for belonging and contribute to emotional well-being, an overemphasis on these more “superficial” relationships can detract from the quality of connections in the inner circle.
How to Audit Your Relationship Circles
A critical step in effectively understanding the power of relationships is to conduct an audit of your social circles.
This process involves looking at the differences between the "inner" and "outer" layers of your networks. Your inner circle is the closest people in your life, while the outer circles are filled with coworkers, professional contacts and more acquaintances.
Questions you might ask yourself or your client:
Where are you spending the majority of your time?
Who do you want to spend more time with?
Who matters most to you?
Do your desires and your actions line up in this arena?
What steps can be taken to spend more time with your inner circle?
When running these audits with clients, it's essential to help clients recognize the choice they have in where they are investing their time and energy – into relationships that truly matter or with people who don’t know them as deeply.
Coaching Strategies for Better Relationships
Energy Audit: Encourage clients to evaluate their social interactions, identifying which relationships drain their energy and which social interactions replenish it. Becoming aware of who matters and how they spend their time can guide them in reallocating their time and energy to realign with their true desires.
Action Steps for Relationship Building: Ask some powerful questions around action steps clients can take to strengthen connections with those in their inner circle. This might involve setting intentional time aside for these relationships, scheduling time to call or text, or finding new ways to re-engage with these important people.
Coping Skills: Not all relationships can or should be avoided, especially those in professional settings or the workplace. Coaching can help guide those who need to manage emotions and establish boundaries in these interactions as well.
Active Coping vs. Avoidance: Encourage the development of active coping mechanisms rather than avoidance strategies. This approach helps clients deal with challenging relationships constructively, fostering resilience and emotional intelligence.
Intentionality in Relationships: Emphasize the importance of intentionality in nurturing close relationships – these take time and effort to build, grow and maintain! Encourage clients to make real intentional choices about spending quality time with the important people in their life, recognizing the profound impact these connections have on their overall well-being.
As life coaches, our work extends beyond addressing immediate problems. By focusing on the role of positive relationships, we can help our clients build a solid foundation for their well-being.
Encouraging your clients to invest in meaningful connections, manage difficult relationships wisely, and approach their social circles with intentionality can lead to transformative changes in their lives.
Ready to Become A Coach?
One of our passions at Lumia is exploration and pushing into the unknown edges as we bring coaching into the world in many different, new ways. Our life coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like a partner in the process, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.