“It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is.

Hermann Hesse

FIERCELY ALIVE: How Do You See?: 2.2.2

The Most Important Thing

It is…

      • one of the strongest predictors for measuring productivity in the work place.
      • more important than money or fame when it comes to  keeping people happy throughout their lives, according to the longest-running study of adult life.
      • able to reduce bullying and lower dropout rates
      • a key factor in helping parents build protective resilience in their children.
      • essential to being seen as an effective leader — without it, your chance is about 1 in 2000, according to a study of nearly 52,000 leaders.

What is this seemingly magical “it?”  Our ability to create good relationships, which impacts our lives unlike nearly anything else.   Of course, many things go into developing good relationships.  In case this doesn’t already appear obvious, consider the emergence of a three-billion-dollar online dating industry, constructed to help singles form relationships and become couples.



At their most basic, good relationships can be gauged using two relatively simple ideas – connection and intimacy.

According to the research of Art and Elaine Anon, individuals can connect, even in a lab setting, if they are having the “right conversation.”  The right conversation involves replacing factual content (“I can’t believe the amount of work I have to do today.”) with something more personal.  And talking about personal matters is much easier from a strengths perspective (“I admire your bravery in taking on such big goals.”). Personal conversations, fueled by strengths language, grow over time with increasing self-disclosure and intimacy, which further strengthens relationships.

John Gottman, another world-renowned relationship researcher draws similar conclusions outside the lab setting. Gottman has found that people in successful relationships continually look for the positive in the other person. Intentional strengths-spotting allows us to magnify the best within the other and de-emphasize weaknesses, drawing us closer together.

Consider this co-worker story:

Mary and I have worked together for some time and are frequent collaborators on projects.  In the midst of a very busy and demanding period, we had a misunderstanding that festered and threatened our working relationship. I was eager to resolve the situation and let her know how sorry I was for what I did to upset her.  Mary listened and immediately forgave me.

It seems like that would be a great end to the story, but I have to admit I was a bit confused.  Surely forgiving me that quickly couldn’t be a sincere response. I wondered if she was actually being passive aggressive?  In reflection, I recalled that one of Mary’s signature strengths was forgiveness – her response suddenly made sense.  It was natural and effortless for Mary to forgive me.  Honestly, that isn’t true for me, so that made it harder to understand.  I shared with Mary what happened and I spotted and appreciated her strength of forgiveness.  Our relationship has never been better.

To build solid strengths-based relationships, we have to stay focused and stay with it – we have to remain fierce.  That will lead us to the full breadth of positive impact, as in the story above.  And as we become fierce, we create new possibilities.  See how here.