We usually focus on studies conducted in a workplace context in our articles. But recent research on communication and health outside of work was just too important for us to pass up. The good news is that the findings are highly applicable to a workplace context as well.
Having trouble finding time to communicate with those you care about – in work or in life – lately? You might want to free up your schedule for a quick conversation. Just one phone call or in person meeting a day can decrease your stress! Read more below.
Why Is Communication Important?
When we communicate with those we care about, it helps us to fulfill a human need to belong and to connect with others. This is called the Communication Bond Belong phenomenon. Even though communicating with others expends energy, it also gives us a boost of positive feelings that is important for having a meaningful life. In the end, without communication with others, we can feel isolated and de-motivated at work and in our personal lives.
But, all communication is not created equal. In order for communication to serve this purpose, the person you’re communicating with must be important to you in some way. Additionally, the communication has to serve the purpose of building a relationship with that person. In other words, calling customer service or commenting on the weather to a stranger will expend energy, but is unlikely to provide other benefits. If your coworkers matter to you, and your communications build your professional relationship, these communications should partially fulfill this need.
What Types of Communication Decrease Stress?
Because communication helps us to connect with others and feel like we belong, it decreases stress and increases feelings of connection. It may also make you feel less lonely and/or anxious. Luckily, there are many ways that you can choose to communicate in order to get these benefits. First, you can simply catch up with someone. Asking how their day went, and telling them about yours, is a good way to do this. Using humor is another way that this conversation might benefit you. Sharing something funny that happened during your day is another way to casually connect.
Alternatively, you might choose to have a more meaningful conversation. You could bring up something that is important to you, and see how the other person responds. Or you can show that you care about the person you’re communicating with by telling them how much they mean to you. You could also tell them that you value their thoughts or opinions. For example, you might ask for advice and then validate that their input has been helpful to you. Complimenting a friend or coworker on their positive attributes is another way to build meaningful relationships through communication. Finally, just listening to someone else talk can constitute meaningful communication. Any of these forms of conversation can help boost your well-being!
Is There Anything Else You Need to Do?
While engaging in any one of these activities in a day is good, engaging in more frequent communication is better. So, if you only have time to talk with one person who means something to you per day, do it! But, if you have time to make multiple connections, the impact on your well-being will be amplified. Try to split your day into thirds. Making a meaningful connection with another person – even if it’s brief – in the morning, afternoon, and evening, can provide great health benefits.
It’s also worth noting that, especially in today’s virtual work environment, that face to face communications are even better for your health than electronic communications. If you work remotely, try to connect in person with folks outside of work in order to gain these benefits. Or check out these tips for building work friendships virtually. If you are in-person for work, you have two domains where you can easily meet these goals. Either way, it’s important to make sure that some of your interactions are taking place outside of texting or emailing. Now, get out there and start communicating!