Welcome to episode six of the “For Flourishing’s Sake” podcast! After a few weeks of featured guests, I wanted to come back to you myself today and talk about something that I am passionate about.
Positive Relationships have been mentioned by me and my guests in previous episodes. I also recently read an excellent interview with Andrew Cowley, author of “The Wellbeing Toolkit”, in which he stressed the importance of positive relationships in schools (incidentally, listen out for Andrew in a future episode of this very podcast!). There is a good reason why positive relationships are being highlighted so much in education; they are crucial to wellbeing and flourishing, and not just in an educational context.
Think back to your best and worst moment in the last week. I bet that at least one of those has something to do with your interaction with another human being. There is much research evidence to show that having good social relationships and a solid social support network are key contributors to happiness and mental health, as well as to physical wellbeing. If you have a few minutes, I strongly recommend watching the “What makes a good life?” TED talk by Robert Waldringer, where he outlines lessons learnt from the longest ever study on happiness!
Within a school setting, there is ample research to suggest that positive relationships help to increase resilience and overall wellbeing of pupils and staff, improve academic attainment, critical thinking and self-esteem, and increase attendance and learning engagement.
Positive relationships include the relationships between pupils, between staff and between staff and pupils, but beyond that, the research points to the benefits of fostering strong community links, too. One example of this was demonstrated beautifully by Lois Banks in Episode four, but today, I want to focus on one simple relationships-boosting strengths-based activity you can do either with pupils or staff, or even in mixed pupil-staff groups.
This activity – “Secret Strengths List” – is featured in mine and Elizabeth Wright’s book, “Character Toolkit for Teachers”. It’s always a popular activity in our INSET and CPD workshops! I was first introduced to this activity by my Positive Relationships module tutor, Evie Rosset, during my MSc in Applied Positive Psychology:
Get each participant to write their name at the top of a blank sheet of paper, then give them an allocated amount of time – I like to play uplifting background music during the activity – and ask them to walk around the room writing down strengths they’ve observed for each person. They can use the VIA Character Strengths, but they don’t have to.
I still have my piece of paper, with strengths identified by people who had only known me for a few days at that point, and whenever I need a boost, I look up at the notice board and read what people wrote about me. It’s a fantastic feel-good activity with lasting relationship- and wellbeing-boosting effects!
Try it out in school and let me know how it goes! Meanwhile, I look forward to our next appointment in a week’s time. Until then….For Flourishing’s Sake, have a great week!
 Rosset adapted this activity from ‘Strength Notes’ activity (p.112): Bourner, T., Grenville-Cleave, B. and Rospigliosi, A. (2014) 101 Activities for Happiness Workshops. Printed by Createspace, an Amazon.com company.