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Like Your Co-Workers, You’ll Live Longer

Improving relationships with your co-workers can lead to better mental health

Multicultural group of co-workers smiling during an appointment with boss in the office
GREY Journal

9-5 seems to be the regular grind for most, which averages to ¼ of their week interacting with co-workers. Those dreadful but must-get-through meetings drain the mind and leave the body tired.

It’s clear when you get along with co-workers. Your mood shifts. Having great communication and interaction with the people you spend ¼ of your week with can boost your mental health. From the ripe age of 18 to retirement, you will have clocked in 47 years of work. With that, comes the inevitable stressors that our life changes. Either a new job, new apartment, car, what have you, stress manages to slowly linger in the back burner. Stress is slowly killing us, but by trying to create these meaningful relationships at work, we can remove one less stressor, improve our mental health and physical health.

Positive Work Environments Improve More Than Productivity

According to Mental Health America, “Data collected from 17,000 employees who completed MHA’s Work Health Survey showed that 63% of employees experienced isolation because of a hostile work environment, with 63% stating that work stress negatively affected their mental and physical health. Not surprisingly, 71% of employees reported speaking poorly of their organization (including boss and co-workers) and wanting to leave their jobs. For many employees, the workplace feels uncertain, isolating, and unsupportive.”

American Psychological Association reports, “having positive relationships with co-workers increases job satisfaction. It makes sense that if you enjoy an environment, you want to be in that environment more and to also be successful in that environment. Motivation is enhanced when the atmosphere is set up for success.”

Biological Causes of Poor Social Skills

Easier said than done. What if you’re one of the many hermits that developed an urge to stay away from crowds, not seek attention? You know, the introverts. If you’re asking yourself, why are you like this, let me decipher a couple of things for you. There is palpable characteristics we pick up from our parents. “You have your mother’s eyes” or “you’re going to be tall like your father”. But what about the lesser known traits we absorb? The personality traits and social skills. According to PLOS One, the biopsychosocial model of mental health theorizes, mental health problems stems from a combination of 3 factors:

  • Biological: Anything from head trauma to genetics
  • Psychological: the way we think, experience; self-doubt or if you have a positive or negative outlook
  • Social: Stressful circumstance or learned behaviors

The goal here was “to take a closer look at why some people emerge from difficult childhoods relatively unscathed while others experience lifelong consequences.” Their research showed, “People who blamed themselves, blamed their parents, or dwelled on their negative experiences were more likely to experience ongoing mental health problems after adverse experiences.”

Improved Social Skills Lead to Better Mental Health

If you are just “the way you are,” and socializing isn’t really your thing, that might be why. Having poor social skills can by harmful to your mental and physical health. As stated by the University of Arizona, “Two variables – loneliness and stress- appear to be the glue that bind poor social skills to health.” Also stated, “Social skills are mostly learned over time, beginning in your family of origin and continuing throughout life… Sociability or social anxiousness, may be at least partly hereditary.”

Another note, “The use of technology is one of the biggest impediments for developing social skills in young people today. Everything is so condensed and parsed out in sound bites… it makes young people timid when they’re face-to-face with others.”

RELATED: Is Modern Living Bad For Your Mental Health?

Mental health offers suggestions on how to create a sustainable workplace environment, to try and keep co-workers engaged, motivated and comfortable. “Give time, be present, listen and be heard.” To answer the million-dollar question, No, you don’t have to like your co-workers, but it helps. Overall, it improves job satisfaction, improves productivity, raises morale, changes attitude, and raises self-esteem.

How To Improve Relationships With Co-Workers

Here are the top 7 tips for getting along with co-workers as provided by The Balance Careers:

  • Bring suggestions
  • Don’t Blame Others
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication matters
  • Don’t blind side a co-worker
  • Keep your commitments
  • Share credit for accomplishments
  • Help Others

Next time you’re in the office and feel yourself wanting to retreat into your shell, don’t. Interacting with co-workers and building relationships improve your health, mind, and body. We will spend about 47 years working. Why not cut one less stressor and better your life? It’s never too late to improve on your social skills.

How well do you get along with your co-workers? Have any more tips to help our readers improve their social skills? Let us know in the comments.

Sylvia Valdez
Sylvia valdez is a writer and photographer. After graduating with a BA in television, film and media studies, from California State University- Los Angeles, she has participated in the Spirit Awards Festivals. Her working experience includes reporting, photographing and Script Development Reading. She continues to write and photograph while raising awareness about mental health.

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