Making your employee feel valued and your spouse feel loved both depend on the same thing: significance.
As couples psychologist Peter Pearson explains to Business Insider, a huge part of your job as a manager or mate is to make the other person feel important.
Because all too often, people feel insignificant, with potentially dire results.
He sees it all the time at the Couples Institute, his relationship counseling practice in Menlo Park, California, the heart of Silicon Valley.
“The people that come in that work for big tech companies like Cisco and IBM talk a lot about feeling like they don’t have much influence, affect, or impact,” he says. “They really do feel like a small cog in a really big machine. The psychological effect of that is they don’t feel very significant in their endeavours.”
The desire to feel significant, Pearson says, is “huge.”
You can see it when people retire. After six months of travelling, playing golf, and visiting the grandkids, recent retirees often start to feel downcast, he says. It’s especially bad for men, whose depression rates spike in retirement.
Making your partner or direct report feel important is often a matter of specifying how and why their efforts are valued.
“If my wife Ellyn says to me, ‘I really appreciate your making dinner,’ then I say, ‘OK thanks,'” Pearson explains. “But if she says, ‘I appreciate your making dinner, because then I don’t have to think about what to make, I feel nurtured, and I can relax,'” then it makes the whole making dinner thing all the more meaningful.
That need for significance and feeling valued is crucial to well-being at work, too. It’s clear in the way people stick around or flee from jobs: According to one American Psychological Association survey, nearly half of people who don’t feel valued at work are planning to find a new job in the next year.
That’s the lesson for managers (and romantic partners): If you want to make the other person feel valued and significant, explain how their actions help everybody involved.
“When the meaning of something is clear, when the why is clear, it’s easier to respond to requests,” Pearson says. “It makes you feel like you are part of a team.”
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