What Makes for Great Relationships? Action for Happiness – Part 4

Hello PPMA member and friends,


Our guest blogger Lisa Sibley Employee Engagement Manager and PPMA Policy Lead, for Well Being, Job Creation and Worklessness writes another inspirational chapter in her ‘Action for Happiness‘ series, we hope it inspires you too.

“September greetings and after an extended Bank Holiday break since the last Action for Happiness course, it felt good to be back for this week’s session which focussed on the importance of relationships and vulnerability.  After the ‘tuning in’ meditation at the beginning of each session we then go on to spend a few minutes to reflect on Good Things that have happened – this week we were asked to think about somebody we really care about but perhaps take them for granted on occasion and to then send them a short text message to tell them how much they mean to us.  How often do you get asked on a course to get your mobile out with permission to use it? After sharing ‘the love and gratitude’ via text, we then got stuck in to what makes for great relationships (and yep, it sure is more than a text but every little helps!).

Modern society often seems to put money and things ahead of people.  But we are a deeply social species and most of us know that our relationships with others are vitally important.  We heard from Brene Brown– an expert in human connection and author of  The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.  Brene has done extensive research on vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame – if you’ve not come across her before, then check her out, she is inspiring, the brief insights I can share via this blog don’t do her justice.

Brene shared with us key insights based on six years’ of studying vulnerability focusing on finding out what the differences are between people who are happy and have a sense of worthiness, love and belonging to those who don’t have it – those that do, truly believe they are worthy. Connection is why we’re here, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives – it is vital to human wellbeing. Shame is the fear that we are not worthy of connection with others. People who are able to lead full and ‘wholehearted’ lives are willing to be vulnerable, to admit their imperfection and to let others see them as they are. If we numb ourselves from vulnerability – never take our defences, guard, persona down – then this numbs our ability to experience joy, gratitude and happiness.

For those who know me you will no doubt realise that Brene’s messages were music to my ears because for some time now in the context of employee engagement and wellbeing, I believe that the key to a happy workplace is creating an environment where people feel safe enough to bring their true selves to work.  Maybe take a moment to think about that in the work context – how much of your true self comes to work each day, what’s holding back the real you, is it you or what is it in the work place that needs to change for you to feel safe to bring you? Keep in mind that you are worthy and you are good enough – regardless of what anyone else thinks – and just see what a difference that could make.

Before I move onto factoids, as I travelled home from Bethnal Green reflecting on the course, for some bizarre reason that brilliant Harvey and Rabbit – Friends– TV advert sprung to mind.  What triggered it is that I was thinking about the importance of friendships and having meaningful connections at work.  As things transform in the public sector we are now seeing many friends leaving and our support networks are potentially eroding with such limited time to create new workplace support networks but my firm belief is that we MUST make time to nurture relationships at work as well as in the communities we are here to serve.  This course is totally endorsing the importance of this.

So, for factoid fans, here are a few for your delectation:-

Relationships are matter of life and death. Studies of the happiest people find that they always have close relationships in their lives and high levels of social integration are also associated with significant health benefits too. Human social isolation and lack of close social ties are associated with higher mortality risk.

Our day-to-day interactions with others matter. A study of hundreds of couples shows that the ratio of positive interactions e.g. praise, support to negative interactions e.g. anger and criticism is strongly related to relationship success.  An average ratio of 5:1 is found in stable relationships, as opposed to 0.8:1 in unstable relationships. So let’s praise our partners, mates, employees like we should…..and on the work front, when being given feedback at the performance /appraisal 1:1s, pay due attention to perhaps that one or two things that might need to improve but don’t let that shadow the good stuff you are being told about you, lap it up!

The way we feel – and the way we make others feel as a result – has a contagious impact through the social networks that we’re part of.  Our happiness has been shown to affect people we’ve never even met, across three degrees of separation – that’s the friend of a friend of a friend!  Like I keep saying, happiness and engagement is contagious – keep spreading it….what the world needs now and all that!

And in terms of improving, building and creating connections (and I’m talking authentic, not superficial), what are the practical proven habits we can adopt?

Really listen to what people are saying

Respond to others’ good news

Raise issues constructively

Tell people how much you appreciate them

And in the words of Helen Keller: ‘Alone we can do so little.  Together we can do so much.’ And again, so true, so relevant, we must truly work collaboratively across public services with our partners, helping to build connected communities where our people can thrive, not just survive. Now that really will keep the Great in Britain – and wouldn’t that make us happy? And for us in the PPMA, what an opportunity to lead the way in working collaboratively across the nation in changing the world of work, creating working environments that are truly representative of the community, where we all feel connected and safe to be just ‘us’?

Thank you for reading, let me know what you think, let’s keep connecting.  Lisa”.

Lisa Sibley, Employee Engagement Manager, Essex County Council and PPMA Policy Lead for Well Being, Job Creation and Worklessness

By | 2017-07-30T12:23:18+01:00 September 7th, 2013|Categories: Guest Blogger, Lisa Sibley|2 Comments


  1. Martin Rayson 7th September 2013 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    What are the key things that in your view Lisa enable people to be their true selves at work? For me it is having authentic leaders who set the tone in demonstrating that they are real people with ups and downs, fears as well as vision and that they value people with a variety of opinions and strengths.

  2. Lisa Sibley 12th September 2013 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    Totally agree – leaders need to be authentic enough/ have courage to bring their own true selves (and be self aware) to create the right template – they do also need to be mindful of behaviours and their shadow, be willing and able to put themselves in the shoes of others (customers and employees) to understand their needs and be willing to fine tune their own behaviours accordingly. Leaders and line managers are the vital underpinnings – get that right and you can really build a culture, a workplace environment that is based on being accepting and whilst not realistic to think individuals aren’t totally non-judgemental, what we need to create is a place which is accepting and considering of others. A willingness to understand others. Funny really because as I am typing this as I think aloud I realise that what I am striving for is workplaces where you can bring your true self but where you will be prepared to or at least try to put others before your self………….that’s public sector for you, working together for the greater good.

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