- Research: The Harvard Study of Adult Development
- Book: I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships (Amazon, Audible)
Forgive the occasional errors—this was done using the magic of AI.
[00:00:00] This is the ‘I Hear You’ Podcast with Michael Sorensen, Episode 1.
[00:00:24] Hello, everybody, and welcome to the I Hear You podcast. I am excited you’re here; I’m excited to be here because this podcast is the result of a lot of work, a lot of preparation. And I’m thrilled because the core focus of this podcast is to arm you with practical, oftentimes simple, but very actionable skills to improve every relationship of your life. We’re gonna talk today about a fascinating study conducted by Harvard researchers that was aiming to focus in or hone in on what leads to happy, healthy lives. In fact, they followed people for over 80 years now seeking information, trying to understand what the, “secret” is. And we’re gonna get into what that in just a moment here. I’m very excited because this podcast focuses on relationships and I’m talking every relationship, not just romantic. We’re talking about business relationships with your boss, with your colleagues, with your direct reports. If you’re a manager, we’re talking about your friendships. Use your social relationships, your family, parents, siblings, children. Really, every relationship of your life is going to benefit from the principles we’re going to talk about today.
[00:01:37] So before we get into it, I want to provide a little bit of background on who I am and why I’m here and where I’m getting all this information that I’m going to be sharing with you.
Who Am I?
[00:01:47] I’m a pretty ordinary guy. If I’m being totally honest with you, I’m not a therapist. I’m not a doctor. I’m not even a formal you could say researcher. My my background and where I gained a lot of my insights here was actually through four years of therapy, about 10 years ago, maybe eleven years ago, I started seeing a therapist to get help working through a number of different things in my life. And I found pretty quickly that while or rather in an effort to heal those issues, I was learning how to handle every other relationship, every other issue that was coming up in my life, issues with roommates, issues with family members, issues with my romantic partners, issues at work, so on and so forth. Because essentially what my therapist was teaching me were just skills about life, how to handle difficult, difficult situations, how to handle great, great opportunities and great situations. And I found pretty quickly that this was transforming my life. One skill in particular, one principal skill, whatever you want to call it, known as validation was so transformative that I sought to share it with others. Long story short, I couldn’t find a book. I couldn’t find many articles on the topic. And so I felt impressed to write my own. And that book, titled I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships, is consistently an Amazon #1 bestseller.
[00:03:09] In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, it was at the top of Audible’ s bestseller list. It has just exploded. And now I am asked to participate in other podcast interviews, radio interviews; I travel and I speak at corporations across the globe; I coach people now one-on-one to help pay forward everything that I’ve learned from those valuable therapy sessions. So not enough of the intro here, but I think it’s helpful to provide that background because I find what people appreciate about my book is that I’m approaching this from a friend-to-friend perspective rather than “I’m the therapist, I’m the expert—you should listen to me.” Because what I’m sharing are things that have made a tremendous impact in my life. I can vouch for them because I have I have made the changes. I have practice the principles, I’ve used the techniques and watched them succeed. And then, of course, I see it succeed and work for thousands of other people in my life that I work with directly or indirectly. So while I am not a therapist, I’m not the expert. The principles I talk about on this podcast come from experts. They come from therapists. They come from real world application. And I promise you, they are life changing.
[00:04:25] Good enough for the intro? Get on to the content, Michael. Right? Okay.
What Leads to a Long, Healthy, Happy Life?
[00:04:30] Let’s dive in to this Harvard study, because this to me is the perfect foundation of this whole series. If there’s if there’s any question in your mind, “Why should I focus on my relationships? Why should I be listening to this podcast? Why should I buy your book or any books on relationships?”
[00:04:49] It’s my mind because of what we’re gonna talk about here.
[00:04:53] So this study, titled The Harvard Study of Adult Development, followed 724 men over seventy five. Gosh, now it’s a little over 80 years. They studied their health trajectories, their broader lives. They followed their triumphs and their failures in their careers and their marriages, their ups and their downs. And they again, they were trying to discover what it was that the happy, healthy people did differently from those who were unhappy or unhealthy or died early. And surprise, surprise.
[00:05:24] What was the number one determiner of a long, healthy, happy life? The quality of their relationships? Their key takeaway from the study, which is still ongoing, by the way. But the key takeaway from their study is this happiness and life satisfaction does not come from wealth, fame, hard work or achievement. It comes from having solid, healthy, connected relationships.
[00:05:51] And this might seem like like a bit of a no-brainer, you know, at least to many of us. Of course, relationships are important. But what I find interesting from the study is that not only are they important for our emotional health, they’re actually important for our physical health. So I want to dive in to three key takeaways from this study here, and then we’re gonna end with an invitation to take some action. That’s one of one of the things that I want to end every episode here with is a key takeaway and something that you can do that very day to day to start improving your relationships.
The Key Takeaways
[00:06:25] So let let’s dive into the three key takeaways here from this Harvard study.
1. Social Connections are Good For Us
The first: social connections are good for us. The researchers say that people who are more socially connected, whether to friends or family or community, are happier, physically healthier, and actually live longer than people who are less well connected. Now, in the research findings, they dive into loneliness. They’re talking about how toxic loneliness is not not not a fun thing to talk about. And yet the reality is one in five Americans report that they’re lonely. And you can be lonely in a crowd, you can be lonely in a marriage. So let me ask you.
[00:07:10] Are you feeling lonely? Do you feel like you have strong quality relationships, people you can count on, people you can do things with? Or do you feel like you’re alone? Do you want to be better connected to people? But you don’t know how? You don’t know where to go. You don’t know if people are going to like you.
[00:07:29] That loneliness is not a fun place to sit in. And it’s not even good for our health. It’s not good for our physical health. It’s not good for our brain. What they found was that people who had these healthy relationships throughout their life on into their 80s still had sharper minds than those who were perpetually lonely or didn’t feel like they had quality relationships. They kept their memory longer. Good relationships are powerful from a health standpoint, physically, as much as they are emotionally. And the one thing I want to highlight here that they highlight in the study is that when they say and when I say good relationships, quality relationships, I’m not saying these are perfect. I’m not saying you never fight. I’m not saying you’re always best friends, because that’s not the case. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you’re never going to have a relationship that just stays buttery, smooth for your entire lifetime. Because we’re all human and we we make mistakes. We have differences in opinion. We have different backgrounds. I mean, you name it, there’s a billion factors that go into what makes us a human being and what makes us us that’s never going to mesh mesh perfectly with people that you’re with. And that’s fine.
2. Quality over Quantity
[00:08:40] And so that takes me to my second point here. And that’s that what matters most here is quality over quantity. You don’t need a million friends and you don’t have to be the most popular kid on the block. All you need is a few solid, healthy relationships.
[00:08:59] And when I say solid and healthy, what I mean is and what the study references here is that there people you can count on that you feel like you have somebody, even if they’re just one person that you can go to when times get tough, but you can confide in that, you can share your exciting moments with somebody that you feel has your back. That is a quality of relationship.
[00:09:22] And when I say healthy relationships, I mean emotionally healthy, meaning again, wait, when you confide in this person, they don’t shoot you down. They don’t say you shouldn’t be angry or stop it, don’t do that. They don’t they don’t abuse you in that way. A healthy relationship is one that’s very accepting and very loving and ideally one where they will call you out when you need to be called out, when they will help set you straight. That is all part of a well-rounded, healthy relationship that we want to have in our lives.
3. It All Starts With You
[00:09:51] And the final takeaway from this study. Is that this all starts with you.
[00:09:58] So if you’re sitting here thinking to yourself, OK. This is great. Relationships are important. Sure, you have to have quality ones. And if you don’t. Life sucks. Well, I know that. And on top of it now, I’m going to die early because I don’t have great relationships. Oh, my gosh, this is wonderful. I love it. If you’re feeling that way, point number three, here is good news for you because you’re not a victim in life and that is a theme that I’m going to preach continually throughout this entire podcast series here. You have the power to create powerful relationships. This starts with you. And I’ll give you a personal example here, because this is one actually where I did not own up to this reality.
It was a number of years ago I had just moved to cities and I didn’t know many people. Frankly, I hardly knew anybody in this new city. And I came to the weekend and I wanted to get together and do something with friends. But I didn’t. Again, I didn’t really know anybody. And so I remember sitting at home, sitting at my apartment and starting to feel sorry for myself and slipping into that self-pity mode and going. I’m sure everybody else is out doing something fun. I sure would love to be part of that, but I don’t know anyone. And so I’m just gonna sit here and watch Netflix all night and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
After about a half hour of sulking in my own self-pity, I got a text message from a woman that I had met the week prior who was also new. Although I’ll say that she had even greater reason for self pity over me because she changed countries. She had just moved here from London and so she really didn’t know anybody. And so she and I had connected a week prior. With all your new. I’m new. That’s awesome. Let’s swap numbers. But I didn’t think much of it at the time. So she messages me and says, Hey, another friend and I are gonna go bowling.
[00:11:49] Would you want to come?
[00:11:51] I said, sure. Actually, that sounds like a lot of fun. So we got together and had a great time. And what’s really cool, though, is that that actually was the start of a very powerful relationship, not only with her, but with several other friends from the area. And we get together still to this day. Years later. Now, what I thought was interesting, though, is actually just a few months ago when I was talking with this woman, I said, oh, isn’t that so far? You have a wreck. When we first met, you invited me to go bowling and that that at that. And she said, yeah, you know, I vividly remember that I was sitting home feeling lonely, feeling sorry for myself. And I decide, you know what, I’m gonna make something happen. I’m going to invite people to go do something.
[00:12:32] And when she said that, I thought back to my situation and thought, wow, she took responsibility, she made things happen.
[00:12:40] I unfortunately was sitting feeling sorry for myself in my apartment. And yet that illustrates what I’m talking about. This point three here that it all starts with you. It all starts with us if we want something to be different in our relationships. Just like if we want something to be different in any area of our life, we have to stand up and take action. And I think back to my friend here is a perfect example of somebody who didn’t sit around, is feeling sorry for herself. She got up and made things happen because the reality was I was sitting in my apartment feeling lonely, but so is she. And so we’re probably hundreds of other people right around me wishing hoping that somebody else would invite them.
Do Something *Today*
[00:13:19] So my invitation on this point to you today is be the one that takes action, be the one that takes the first step, because not only will it help you get what you’re yearning for, it will help other people around you who may not have quite the courage just yet to reach out.
[00:13:38] So, again, the three key takeaways, at least for me from this study. Number one, social connections are good for us, not only emotionally but physically. They have a long term benefit to our overall health. Point number two, it’s all about quality. You don’t have to have a million friends. You want to have a few strong, solid, healthy relationships. And point three, this all starts with you. You are in the driver’s seat. You can’t make other people do what you want. You can’t make people hang out with you. You can’t make people happy or sad. But what you can do is reach out. You can you can plan activities. You can start to men. You can at least apologize to somebody who perhaps you’ve had a falling out with. They might not reciprocate, but at least you’ve made the gesture. At least you’ve tried. And that is the best you can do.
[00:14:26] And eventually you will find people that you connect with. You will find people who will become those quality relationships. So my invitation for you today is to make relationships a priority. Take a moment right now to write down one relationship or situation you want to improve. This could be a family member, this could be a colleague at work. This could be a friend. This could be your spouse could be with a child. But think of one relationship that you want to improve. Next. Think of one thing you can do this week to start to improve that.
[00:15:07] And this doesn’t have to be anything big. It could be as simple as calling a friend and saying hi, maybe writing a thank you note to someone, perhaps you invite your sibling or a parent out to lunch. You could make a note to compliment a colleague this week, maybe say hello to someone on the bus, apologize to someone you’ve had a falling out with, or ask a friend about one of their hobbies and watch them light up because they’re so excited to talk about it. And then the final thing I invite you to do is to make yourself accountable. Set a due date right by next Tuesday. I’m going to reach out to my mom and setup time to go to dinner. Right. And then and then tell somebody about it, whether it’s a friend, whether it’s a spouse or a very least, write it down and stick it on your bathroom mirror so that you commit to yourself that you’re going to do this. It’s no secret that accountability is powerful. If you’ve made it this far in this episode and you’re listening to this podcast, you clearly want to improve your relationships. Take the first step.
[00:16:04] You know better than anybody what you can do. And make the change.
[00:16:09] So this is the first obviously of many episodes to come. And I want to wrap it up by saying this. All of these principles build on each other. All of these are centered around personal responsibility, kindness, non-judgment and everything that we’re going to talk about here is truly life changing.
[00:16:28] So I invite you to subscribe to the podcast. I invite you to follow my blog. Michael S. Sorensen, D-Conn. I regularly post new content. I answer reader questions and I continue to help round out my understanding and attempt to pay forward everything that has had such an impact in my life. That’s going to do it for today’s episode. Keeping it short, sweet and to the point, like every other podcast or out there, I will invite you that if you found some value in this or perhaps future episodes that you consider leaving a positive review on iTunes or Spotify or stitcher or wherever you listen. Obviously that helps others find the podcast. And then I do encourage you to please reach out to me if you have questions, thoughts or feedback. I welcome it all. And I do my best to answer the emails as quickly as reasonable.
[00:17:16] So, again, a lot of great things ahead. Several of these episodes will have already been published by the time you’re listening to this one. So I encourage you to dig in and find a topic, find a principle that interests you and take the next step in improving every relationship in your life.