“Only Connect.” E. M. Forster English novelist and essayist, 1879–1970
External communication is the means by which we share our thoughts, feelings, and ideas with others. This chapter first explores the importance of external communication in the development and maintenance of authentic connections with others. The ability to communicate with others in a way that promotes mutual empowerment and affirmation is known as social intelligence. Social intelligence first involves social awareness, the ability to understand and adapt to the often unspoken norms and behavioral expectations of differing groups. These elements are described and explored in this chapter.
External Communication Connects Us With Others
The Importance of Connection
The quotation at the beginning of this chapter, “only connect,” is an elegantly simple testimony to the fundamental and biologically driven human need for meaningful relationships. From the moment of birth and throughout our lives, we are nurtured, encouraged, and challenged by our relationships with others. Supportive human connections are essential for optimal health, happiness, and quality of life.1
Positive connections with others can enhance cognitive skills such as learning, creativity, and memory. Supportive relationships enhance our work productivity, academic performance, and potential for achievement.2–4
In the health-care setting, patients who experience a compassionate connection with their health-care providers are more likely to adhere to prescribed treatment regimens and to have better functional health outcomes than those without such relationships. They are also less likely to require placement in extended care facilities, even in the presence of significant disability.5–9 Having supportive connections with patients is also good malpractice insurance. Clinicians who develop positive relationships with their patients are less likely to have legal action taken against them.10
The benefits of positive relationships have far-reaching effects at the organizational level of health care, contributing to improved productivity and quality of service. For example, nurses with supportive managers have better patient safety outcomes than those without.11 The ability to develop supportive relationships is an essential trait for effective leadership. The efforts of many persons are required for significant organizational change. Thus leaders who can motivate their colleagues towards their goals and vision will be much more successful in their roles. In contrast, leaders who rely largely on impersonal policies or mandates (such as financial gain) will seldom achieve long-term success.12
Finally, research in positive psychology has clearly demonstrated the link between happiness and the presence of a strong social support network. In her 2007 book The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, Sonja Lyubomirsky, a research professor in the area of positive psychology, provides an extensive evidence-based review of the elements ...