Develop This One Skill to Achieve Lifelong Happiness

Jan 21, 2016 | Categories: skills development
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Competency Can Increase Personal Effectiveness, Build Rapport With Others

Imagine if you could achieve lifelong happiness by developing just one skill. That sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?

The good news is that anyone can develop this skill, although it’s not necessarily “easy” to develop. Most people have to work very hard for this one.

What’s the skill, you ask? Interpersonal skills.

 

What are Interpersonal Skills?

When we talk about interpersonal skills, we are referring to your ability to effectively communicate, build rapport and relate well to all kinds of people.

Developing strong interpersonal skills brings you many benefits: career advancement, better family relationships and an ever-widening circle of friends. This, in turn, increases your personal influence and opens doors that might have otherwise been closed.

Most notable, however, is the power of strong interpersonal skills to bring you lifelong happiness.

 

The Role of Relationships in Happiness

Thanks to a 75-year-old study on adult development by Robert Waldinger, we now know building strong relationships is an important factor — perhaps even the most critical factor — in achieving health and happiness.

This may not be surprising, but then again, perhaps it’s more surprising than you realize considering the average person’s priorities.

For example, in a recent study of millennials, more than 80 percent indicated it was a major life goal to get rich. Another 50 percent said achieving fame was atop their list. But building great relationships was not among their top goals.

This is believable enough. Furthermore, it’s probably not too far-fetched to imagine that many more people, across all generations (not just millennials), value money and status in similar ways.

Yet we now have conclusive evidence that building great relationships with others is the answer. It’s the big secret we have all been waiting to discover, but perhaps not devoted enough time to understanding and applying to our lives.

In Waldinger’s words:

 

"So what have we learned? What are the lessons that come from the tens of thousands of pages of information that we've generated on these lives? Well, the lessons aren't about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year-old study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period."

 

Let’s Get Specific: Quality, Closeness and Stability

It’s not just having lots of friends or being in a relationship that matters. Waldinger’s study has uncovered that we humans achieve the greatest happiness when our relationships with others score high in quality, closeness and stability.

This means it’s more important to have a small group of trusted friends than a large group of casual acquaintances. It also means prioritizing family time, preferably the type where people are engaged in two-way conversation.

 

How to Develop Your Interpersonal Skills

If you’re ready to work on this area of your life, congratulations! Making the commitment to improve is the first and most important step.

To get started, consider reading the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People
by Dale Carnegie. This highly-acclaimed book outlines a system for building genuine relationships that really works, and which is rooted in good values and principles.

You should know that building great relationships isn’t exactly a cakewalk, though. To succeed, you must understand yourself and others on a deep level.

One of the best ways to truly understand who you are — how you behave, why you do the things you do, and your communication style — is to take a validated assessment specifically designed to measure these traits and which can provide feedback to you and other interested parties.

Assessments work even better in pairs or groups, since people can share their results and discuss ways to improve their relationships together. This is just as true at home as it is at the office.

 

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Steven Fies

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