The benefits of strong happy relationships have been documented in hundreds of studies. People with strong friendships and family bonds enjoy less stress, better physical and psychological health, and even live longer!
But what about our acquaintance relationships? For most of us, our daily interactions are filled with people we barely know. Our coworkers a few cubicles down. The salesperson in the department store. The people at the gym. The boy in the ice cream shop. As I was driving home from work the other day, I thought about the people I talked to that afternoon: my son’s former baseball coach, two students, a client, a custodian at my office building, a coworker, and a woman at the gym. I had also e-mailed several people, most of whom I have never met in person.
In fact, studies show that Americans spend more time with coworkers, clients, neighbors and other acquaintances than with family and friends. Current research finds that connections with acquaintances provide distinct benefits to your health. And even though we don’t know our acquaintances well, we depend on these relationships for many things. They reduce loneliness, help you solve problems, provide fun, assist in emergencies, and connect you to religious, political and social groups. One study found that people with fewer of these ties were more likely to abuse alcohol and smoke too much.
While your acquaintances will never replace your close relationships, there are ways you can enhance these relationships further. Here are a few tips:
- Slow down. Put time and energy into getting to know the people you interact with on a daily basis. Sit down, relax and pay attention to these people.
- Look around. Don’t walk around staring at the ground, avoiding eye contact with those around you. Instead, wish someone “good morning,” or open a door for another person.
- Respect others. Be more understanding of your acquaintances’ perspectives and make the most of these bonds by asking questions. You never know who might be able to help you in the future or find you a new job.
- Temper your anger. If you’re having a bad day, don’t transfer that negativity to the acquaintances you run into. Instead, release your anger in constructive ways like exercise, journaling, or art. Go outside and smell the flowers in your garden. Breathing fresh air is always a stress releaser. If the outside is too chilly for you these days, walk around the mall at a good speed and watch people.
Dr. Terri Orbuch (aka The Love Doctor®) is a relationship expert for OurTime.com, as well as a professor, therapist, research scientist, and author of 5 best-selling books, including “Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship,” available on Amazon.com. Learn more about her at: DrTerriTheLoveDoctor.com.