Build a Connection Even in Tough Times

Time in lockdown, whether it means spending more time together or less, could be an opportunity to strengthen your relationships. We asked Jon Watkins from our team to draw on his own experience and training as a resilience coach for some tips to make relationships survive and thrive during this crisis.

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With many people now working from home while living with their loved ones, it’s essential to maintain relationships and build closer connections even when it gets stressful!

Everyone’s experiencing a lot of change. Change can be stressful.

Understandably many people are now experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety. The pressures of working remotely are beginning to build, and new and challenging demands are emerging. The most significant risk is that people will start to disconnect from the people around them.

We are wired to connect, and it’s one of the most critical features of unconscious human interactions.

Effectively connecting with others enables you to maintain a strong support network based on mutual trust and respect that helps you experience challenges and changes more positively and productively. Try these five skills and see what changes you see:

1. Understand the brain chemicals that break or boost your connection with others:

– Oxytocin is the hormone that facilitates love & trust.
– Serotonin creates feelings of pride and feeling valued.
– Cortisol is a hormone that generates the stress response.

The way you communicate and connect with people can either create Oxytocin and Serotonin or generate Cortisol, which prevents the other two from being released!

2. Learn to recognise your communication style in any situation

There are three basic types of communication styles and it’s essential to understand how each one can impact on your connection with others. Passive or aggressive forms of communication produce Cortisol and block the feel-good chemicals. While assertive communication gets the best response, creating Oxytocin and Serotonin in those around you.

Use the table below to spot for the behaviours associated with passive or aggressive communication in yourself and others. Once you spot them, you can stop them.

© The Resilience Development Company

3. Find common ground with people to enable better relationships

Much of life involves negotiation and a common starting point during negotiations is when you ‘take a position.’ Your position, especially during times of challenge and stress means you can doggedly hold to particular viewpoints or requirements and offer very little room for movement. In a nutshell, positions tend to have an “all or nothing” ultimatum quality. They either win or lose.

Research indicates that the first five minutes of any negotiation is key in terms of setting the scene for any relationship. A better strategy is to start by trying to find a shared interest, the things you can agree on that open up the possibility for a ‘win/win’ solution. By establishing a shared interest, you are building assertiveness!

4. Respond to good news the right way

While you are working from home and sharing your time with the same people day in day out, it takes effort to connect with people and celebrate the good stuff. Perhaps it is a little person who brings you a picture, a phone call from a family member who wants to share some good news or a colleague who has just finished a particularly taxing piece of work. There is only one way to respond to good news or deed that builds a connection with those around you:

Show a genuine interest and allow the other person to savour the moment.

In doing this they’ll feel valued, understood, invested in and proud. The feel-good chemicals will flow between you both, which will result in the relationship becoming far stronger!

5. Focus on what can be 

With all this change, challenge and uncertainty, working together is more important than ever. It means we are going to be asked to do more with even less time, energy or resources.

When those requests are made, it’s important to respond in a way that promotes Oxytocin and not Cortisol. As soon as the words ‘I can’t’ are uttered it’s all people focus on. It doesn’t matter if you continue to tell them how you might be able to manage their request, the damage is already done.


  • The next time you ask someone to do something for you and they respond with “I can’t do that”, try asking them what they CAN do instead! And see what they say.
  • Start conversations with a focus on what can be done – what timescale or quality could you achieve. This will also make you are a more pro-active person to be around and will help to build better, stronger and more productive relationships.

In summary

Jon concludes, “Life in lockdown isn’t going to be easy all the time. The people who maintain connections in stressful times generate the chemicals within themselves and those around them that drive great relationships. They can make others feel valued and communicate with assertiveness rather than aggression. This conscious focus enables them to build connection, psychological safety and navigate diversity and challenge even in times of extreme stress. If you are wondering if you might be stressed this quiz will give you some idea about how much stress you deal with in your life right now.”

Want to try some more resilience skills?

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