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It’s not you, it’s your well-being — Coach tips for strengthening relationships, starting with yourself

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A two-way street

Ignoring their own well-being hurts Members’ personal and professional relationships

Personalized well-being support had an immediate impact on Members’ relationships

Why is he still talking? Blah, blah, blah. Is he still talking???

“Anything to add?” The analyst asked hesitantly. 

“Nope. Are we done?” I bolted from the conference room ignoring the looks of confusion from the team that wanted my guidance. 

I was having a bad day, a bad week. Our research suggests that more than 50% of the workforce is similarly languishing at any time — more irritable or sad, less patient, more negatively affected by everyday stressors.

But that’s just the way it is, isn’t it? You work hard and some weeks are out of control. We push forward anyhow, stay up late, get up early, compartmentalize. We make the sacrifice, not giving in to exhaustion and whatever doubts, desires, and needs are pinging around in our minds. 

We think that it only affects us. 

But when our well-being is low, everyone around us feels it. Call it the negative ripple effect. We unknowingly undermine the well-being and performance of our team members and family members, causing additional stress and discord. My lack of well-being was killing my relationships. 

A two-way street

In his book Flourish, Dr. Martin Seligman suggests that relationships are a key pathway to well-being. Study after study has pointed to the importance of relationships in our well-being. 

Yet as Coach Yashi Srivastava puts it, “the connection between relationships and well-being is a two-way street.” While it’s true that the quality of our relationships impacts our well-being, our well-being also affects our relationships. We can get in a negative spiral, severing the bonds that can help us.

This month we asked a panel of BetterUp Coaches about the ways they see well-being affecting member’s relationships — with teams, peers, friends, and families — and to offer some guidance for getting out of that negative spiral.

Coaches Rick Reddington, Yashi Srivastava, Juan Carlos Camacho Ruiz, and Fabian Orue joined us for this discussion. 

BetterUp Coaches create an objective, safe space for employees to pause and consider different ways of understanding and interpreting their own experiences. They help members be vulnerable and honest, enabling deep personal insights that allow for personal and professional growth. Coaches find that members at all levels often come in struggling with relationships.  

As Coach Juan Carlos put it, one of our most human motivations is the need to strengthen ties with others and to create a sense of belonging to groups with common interests, to connect with others, receive recognition and affection. Failures in interpersonal relationships such as a personal break-up, being dropped from a colleague’s meeting, or the inability to find new affinity groups can return us to defensive isolation. 

Yet we need relationships to provide a strong foundation to take on new challenges. 

Relationships are core to our professional performance, career advancement, and personal life satisfaction. We rely on a series of people just to get our daily work done. Keeping those relationships healthy makes everything flow a little easier.

Ignoring their own well-being hurts Members’ personal and professional relationships

  • Coach Fabian: Our thoughts, emotions and body are interconnected. It is very difficult to gain emotional regulation without addressing well-being. We have to monitor well-being and address discomfort and distress when we see it. 

  • Coach Yashi: One member talked about his inability to step away from work and take breaks. He constantly felt overwhelmed and under pressure, and he was curt and unresponsive in his interactions with his coworkers and supervisor. When he decided to take more breaks, step out for walks, and experiment with meditation, he found that he wasn’t as overwhelmed and his relationships at work started improving.

    Another member wanted to be a more effective and inspirational leader, but her team was burnt out and disengaged. She realized what she really needed was to set a good example by improving her own work-life balance. As her well-being improved, her team reported feeling more engaged and energized, too.

  • Coach Rick: Well-being declined for many Members this past year. Some recognized that personal well-being was foundational for all other growth or accomplishment. For others, it was less self-evident. Coaching sessions were often about the unreasonableness of others, myriad struggles with family members and co-workers, unrealistic deadlines, mounting frustration with how almost any aspect of life was becoming increasingly annoying. As a coach, the culprit was obvious, our member was out of alignment, their well-being was awry. However, much of the potential of coaching lives in the process of discovery, increased self-awareness, and an informed willingness to change.

  • Coach Juan Carlos: Our impulse to individualism and control, to impose points of view, and judge excessively make us difficult to collaborate with — every interaction becomes a headache. We may be appreciated for other qualities, but we drive talent away when we are in charge and create very competitive environments where the fear of failure or humiliation destroys performance.

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Personalized well-being support had an immediate impact on Members’ relationships

  • Coach Juan Carlos: We focus on well-being through strengthening self-knowledge, exercising emotional regulation, empathy, and developing a genuine interest in others. That leads to better interpersonal relationships that further contribute to our well-being and that of the people we collaborate with and who share our space.
  • Coach Fabian: I always start with the Member, especially around self-awareness. One man — affected by the lockdown, increased uncertainty at work, and his wife’s health issues — focused on being more disciplined with exercising and scheduling his day to allow breaks and to attend to what was important to him. He experienced lower his stress levels, became more optimistic and reported having more constructive and wise responses for his team.
    Another Member, a woman with small kids and a newborn, was sleep-deprived, worried about the pandemic and needing to work long hours in her technology company. Exercise and developing healthy nutrition habits helped her reduce stress and be able to focus on improving her interactions at work and at home.
  • Coach Rick: In the pandemic, self-care, in the context of physical, emotional, financial, or social well-being became a game that no one knew how to play particularly well. Our sessions shifted to balance, time management, setting workplace expectations and managing the inclination to work longer hours.
    Together, we curiously explored the bigger questions – who or what are the constant variables in each scenario. We uncovered the deeper wants and unsatisfied needs; the out of balance variables, the why behind the what, and we identified how diminished personal well-being was the camouflaged saboteur. Together we designed step-by-step plans to replenish what was missing. We role played how to ask for what you need, and when to push back when the cost to personal well-being is too high. We acknowledged the law of diminishing returns and practiced enrolling others into our well-being preservation program and leading by example.

When we manage our stress better and do activities that replenish our bodies and minds, we can also reconnect with what it is that we love about our work and our lives. Rather than an act of selfishness, when we take care of ourselves, we have more patience and openness to recognize and value others.