The motivation required in our jobs is useful in improving our relationships, as we all yearn for appreciation. That's according to Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project and author of Be Excellent at Anything. Whether this is a simple ‘well done’ or high praise and encouragement, Mr Schwartz quotes researcher Marcial Losada.
He discovered that, amongst high-performing work teams, encouragement such as positive feedback outweighed negative by a ratio of 5.6 to 1. This is a lesson that can be taken forward into our intimate relationships, as love is a skill that helps us to learn how to interact, just as we do at work. The ratio of positive to negative interactions needs to stay above 5 to 1 according to John Gottman's research.
And, according to the video below, we all have very similar thoughts and expectations about romantic love; we learn it from a very young age, not just from our parents, but also from songs and films. It's something that we continually strive for. Work, in comparison, is often a chore – boring, yet necessary to pay the bills – however, because of the routine involved, it's often considered to be less taxing than maintaining personal relationships.
Our jobs are (usually) set out for us in so far as we arrive, carry out our work, and then return home. If we need training, it's provided, if we do something wrong, we are corrected, and when we do something well, we are praised, which increases our feeling of happiness. The video goes on to say that, while at work, we can’t be ourselves, just as our colleagues may put on a persona, and this is a lot simpler than having to be honest, as we need to be with our partners.
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When we begin a new job we are shown the ropes: we are sent on training programmes and given manuals to read. Romantic love is a skill which does not have these advantages. Even though some expect that intimate bond of magically knowing what the other is thinking. This can often turn romantic relationships sour as it leads to a lack of conversation and therefore more misunderstandings.
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Weekends often present a problem because, when Friday evening arrives and the working week is over, we must return to our home life. Perhaps it has been a stressful week, especially, as our job might be one of great responsibility. However, often that seems much easier than spending a whole weekend together with our partner.
“When we begin a new job we are shown the ropes. Romantic love is a skill which does not have these advantages.”
The sexual side can be trying, especially in a long-term relationship, and having to fit into a non-structured environment is often more complicated: our expectations are high, yet without the feedback sessions, insights and training manuals that come with our job, they are harder to achieve. Sometimes, Monday mornings can come as a relief, as it means returning to our structured work life.
Employers understand that people are unable to grow and absorb new ideas if they're feeling humiliated or threatened. The best way for them to incorporate information is when work reviews are done with tact; for example, one criticism should be encased in a minimum of seven compliments.
At home, we try to improve relationships with our partners, to create more happiness, but seem to lack the ability to teach and learn what the other wants, mainly because it has never been adequately explained. Slamming doors and calling each other names achieves nothing – love is a skill which must be learned.
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Furthermore, we're much more willing to accept advice or criticism from our boss than from our partner because trying to teach our lover contravenes our image of romantic love. We feel that we should be loved for who we are, through good and bad times and, we feel that happiness and romantic love has nothing to do with education, and so any form of criticism is taken as nastiness, rather than only as healthy behaviour to improve relationships.
We rely less on our work than we do on the stability of our home life, especially when children and a mortgage are involved, however, the more we depend on our lover, the more alarming any disappointments become and the further we stray from happiness.
According to a talk by philosopher Alain de Botton (video below), romanticism has ruined romance and our conception of romantic love. He challenges the survival of long-term relationships in this world where the culture holds unrealistic ideas of love.
The Romantics were late-18th century poets who believed in the concept of soulmates, and that romantic love was our birthright, leading to a partner with whom we would happily spend the rest of our lives not having to discuss or argue, because we would understand each other without words.
YouTube/The School of Life
However, this wasn't the case in the 18th century and it isn't now. Unfortunately those ideas are now deeply engrained in our culture. All other skills we must learn, but love and relationships will magically work if we find the right person.
Centuries later, we're still searching for this romanticised form of love to alleviate our anxieties, have someone to share secrets with and to consistently have earth-shattering sex for ever more! We still believe that we can only fulfill our real potential, achieve ultimate happiness and become whole by being one of two.
“Love is a skill that is all about learning, over time, about how to be compatible and to help each other to develop and grow.”
The Ancient Greeks, Alain de Botton concludes, were nearer the mark when they described a loving relationship as being that of teacher and student, much as we find in the workplace. Love is a skill that is all about learning, over time, about how to be compatible and to help each other to develop and grow. He argues that love is about patience and having the ability to ask questions, such as, “What are the underlying issues of the day that are making this person feel and behave the way they do?"
Compare this with the simplicity of tools and apps at work that can deliver lots of things we want on demand, making our lives so much easier. Dr Gary Chapman writes that to improve relationships; we need praise and encouragement to maximise our motivation; the same is true both in the workplace and the home.
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The concept of romantic love, leading to improved relationships is enshrined in understanding how others think and relate to each other. There is no manual to follow, only our desire to learn how to improve relationships, loving or otherwise. There is no magic button, only hard work, yet the reward of deep human connection is real and it is one of the keys to happiness. ●
Main image: Colourbox.com
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