Reality Check:The Happiness of Turning Toward

Have I told you lately that I love you?

In any series of articles that’s looking to help increase our happiness, you knew that sooner or later, love would have to show up! It’s well-established that an important factor in our happiness is whether we have warm, loving relationships.

Keep in mind that “relationship” is much broader than the spousal or partner relationship that might come to mind. When you think about it, most of us have many relationships.

For example, there are children, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, immediate and extended family, community members, fellow volunteers, employees and more. You probably know a lot of people, and you have some sort of relationship with each of them.

Dr. Joel Wade, in Mastering Happiness, suggests that if you want to improve a relationship, one simple, helpful action is to adopt the habit of “turning toward.” That is, when the other person is looking for your attention, physically turn toward them and give your undivided attention to them for that moment.

It might seem inconvenient at the time. It probably is. Somebody wants your attention, and they may have interrupted you to try to get it. You’d like to say—and perhaps have said—“Just a minute. I’ll get to you when I’m done with what I’m doing.”

Dr. Wade suggests a different response. Instead of putting them off, turn toward them. Because at that moment, your attention is what the other person wants most of all. Give that attention. It’ll probably only take a minute, anyway.

What’s the effect of turning toward and giving attention versus holding back and delaying attention?

When you turn away or put off the other person, how is your action perceived?  It might be something like, “She doesn’t care enough to look up from her book to listen to me, even though what I want to say is really important to me.”

When you turn toward and encourage the other person, how is that perceived? It could be, “I’ve been acknowledged; I’m being heard. Now I can go away satisfied.”

Granted, we don’t have control over what the other person perceives, no matter what we do. All we can do is control our own actions.

However, if we choose actions that acknowledge and respect the other person, isn’t it more likely that they will perceive that they’ve been acknowledged and respected? And therefore, more satisfied? Which might lead to a warmer, closer, more loving relationship?

Here’s an experiment: Think about a time when you habitually put off someone that you care about. For example, maybe you’re tired when you come in the door after a full day of work (or play), and you just want to put your stuff away and sit down. But someone you love is right there in your face, looking for your attention.

What do you do?

Instead of saying, “Give me a minute; I’m tired and I have a million things to do,” try this. Just stop what you are doing. Turn toward the other person. Look at them. And listen. You might even smile, if you can muster up the energy.

See what happens.

Does it help? If so, repeat, whenever and wherever you want to help a relationship become warmer, closer, and more loving.

And why do we want warm, close, loving relationships? Because good relationships help to enhance our happiness.

Try turning toward. Let me know what you learn

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