Happiness Book Club 3: How to connect to anyone

Vanessa King, positive psychology expert at Action for Happiness, recommends a book every month to improve our happiness levels


Happiness Book Club 3: How to connect to anyone

Research shows that people with strong and broad social relationships are happier and healthier, and live longer. Close relationships with family and friends provide love, meaning, support, and increase our feelings of self-worth. Broad networks bring a sense of belonging.

So taking action to strengthen relationships and build connections is essential for happiness.

This month, I’m recommending The Relationship Cure (Crown Publications, £14.95) by psychologist Dr John Gottman, a five-step programme for repairing any troubled relationships.

Drawing on a host of scientific studies, Gottman introduces the fundamental unit of connection he calls the ‘emotional bid’. Bids can be as subtle as a look, quick question, or a comment.

His research finds that people with happy relationships make bidding, and responding to bids, a high priority. A response to a bid can be a turn toward, away or against someone’s request for emotional connection. If you don’t notice when a person is making an emotional bid for attention, you are emotionally illiterate, Gottman adds – but the good news is that you can learn techniques and improve.

The basics? Kindness works, and always be respectful. Show interest in what another person says and you’ll build big dividends in your relationship. Look for the good in your partner and others, and make it known. Say what you like out loud, and you will get more of it. Return bids with positive interest and you will bring more happiness into your life.

Three questions to discuss this month

  • How do you usually make bids for attention?
  • How does you best friend or partner tend to make a bid for your attention?
  • How can you show more interest in others?

Create your own HAPPINESS BOOK Club here: psychologies.co.uk/get-your-happiness-club-started

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Photograph: Corbis

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