Would you like your relationships to be stronger and feel more connecting? The research shows that one of the most powerful ways to find deeper connection is through sharing positive emotions. We know that strong relationships are a primary driver of happiness and well-being. The process I share today is how we can tap into this endless source of positivity and bonding.
You know that experience of being totally in sync with someone – you’re in an engaging conversation and you feel connected. You unconsciously mirror the actions and facial expressions of the other person. You anticipate what they are going to say before they say it. The two of you are feeling the same things, thinking the same things and sometimes your sense of self expands and you almost feel like the same person. This is what Barbara Fredrickson, top positive psychology researcher, calls positivity resonance.
In her book, Love 2.0, she shares the research how these short bursts of shared positive emotion and connection are the essential building components of good relationships. It’s in these moments that your brain, biochemistry and behaviors mirror each other, create a motivation to care about the other, and push you to invest in the other’s well-being. These experiences are the core of what builds connection and a sense of closeness between two people. And we can actively create more of these opportunities in our lives and in our relationships.
Positivity Resonance in Action
In my Science of Happiness keynotes and trainings, I have my audience do a simple gratitude exercise, where they write down 3 specific things they are grateful for (details here). This is a well-known path to increasing happiness and it always creates a sense of contentment in the room and lots of smiles. Then, as a follow up exercise, I have them pair off — one shares something from their list while the other one is instructed to listen intently. As people share, the energy in the room absolutely erupts as many participants start to experience this positivity resonance. They sync up as the listener starts to feel the positive emotions of the one sharing. After the exercise, people consistently share that, not only do they feel great from the exercise but they feel close to the person they shared with, even when they’d never spoken more than a couple words together before.
As I watch these pairs of people connect, I notice they are often mirroring each other’s facial expressions and hand movements. They lean in and are animated in their stories. The research shows that if we could look into their bodies, we’d see the activity in their brains also mirroring one another, their physiology and heart rate doing the same dance, and certain connecting hormones (such as oxytocin)being released at the same time. These shared emotions and this shared connection cause an entire symphony of biological synchrony, which leads to a sense of knowing the other person, of seeing them as they are rather than as we categorize them from afar. And this leads to a mutual understanding and a desire to help the other. This is connection at its best. And it is this process repeated over time that makes friends of strangers, good friends of acquaintances and intimates of friends. It’s the continued shared positive experiences that bind together long-term partners, family and close friends.
How to Create Positivity Resonance
These times of connection clearly happen on their own at times, but think of how much stronger your relationships can be (and how much more fun connecting with others could be) if you can open this kind of resonance more often.
Some general tips:
Specific tips for developing positivity resonance with those already in your life
Specific tips for developing positivity resonance with new people you come across
It’s not that we should try to turn every conversation toward the positive or that we should spend every minute looking for these types of connections. It’s simply about creating more space to listen and to seed some of our daily interactions with positive intent. And when we find some positivity, stay with it, and build it with the other person. If we are proactive at this a few times a day, we will naturally create more positivity resonance. This in turn will bond us more closely with the people in our lives and with our communities, leading us to experience more happiness, more connection and more love. This is the wonderful stuff of life. Tap into it more.
Eric Karpinski, The Happiness Coach
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