When was the first relationship you had? I mean that real relationship with someone that you felt super connected with? For me, it started when I was born. I’m an identical twin, so growing up with my twin sister, we had a very close bond that translated into easily connecting with other people. I think that we knew so early on how it felt to be close to someone that we often sought this out in others we met. When we were six years old, our parents had their friends Patti and Carl over to our house. After being introduced to Patti, my twin and I proceeded to take her by the hand, pull her down to our eye level and ask her to tell us her stories and her secrets.
This story has been told over the years in my family because it’s funny, and a little creepy having two identical twins ask you these serious questions. However, it reminds me of how we can all challenge ourselves to get down to eye level, and build meaningful relationships.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve broadened my understanding of how to develop and maintain authentic relationships. I completed my Masters degree in Family Therapy, which provided the theoretical understanding of how to connect and understand systems and relationships. I then started working for a company where my role became all about building relationships. Over the years, I’ve come up with three simple things to keep in mind – essentially what NOT to do while forging genuine, lasting relationships.
1.) Making It All About YOU
This is a common mistake that we all have made at least a few times when meeting other people. Just talk all about what you do, who you are and what makes you great. This is what business expert Jack Daly often calls, “show up and throw up.” When we meet someone new, we have a tendency to explain all about who we are and what we do. Think about that first date you went on, or the last networking function you attended. When you met someone new, who did the most talking?
We are often faced with this tension – this need – to talk about ourselves, so that we can shine and stand out in the other person’s eyes.
Anita Chlipala is a relationship expert whose business, Relationship Reality 312, is all about helping people discover happy and healthy relationships. Chlipala shares some simple things that people can do to create a stronger network and to build better relationships. She explains that when you’re getting to know someone, you need to ask the right questions to learn about the other person’s interests, needs and goals, then ask how you can be of service to them. Talk with them about their long-term and short-term goals, then offer ways you can help. This is setting a strong foundation that you can build upon later.
In the world as it is today, we are all challenged in creating lasting connections because of all the clutter that fills our lives, such as social media distracting us every minute. When meeting someone for the first time, you need to stick out from the pack and have something unique to offer.
Recently I was traveling to a new city for work, and had a business meeting with a prominent local attorney. Of course, I was nervous about making a good first impression and that this attorney saw me as a credible representative of our company. As I entered his office, he sat behind a large mahogany desk with stacks of papers piled neatly in rows. Reclining back in his leather chair while smoothing down his tie, he said in a very direct “lawyerly” way, “Okay, tell me about you.” In my head, I saw two paths I could go down with him. I could launch into a spiel all about myself, my credentials and highlighting the work I do, spewing facts all over the place. Or, I could steer the conversation toward understanding who HE is, asking the right questions targeted to understand what he likes about his work, where he sees challenges and how he views those challenges. I leaned forward, placing my arms on his desk, and steered the conversation to learn more about him. He was more than forthcoming and told me story after story about his relationships with his teenage sons and the work he does as a coach for the boys soccer team. By the time our meeting was finished, I was able to share with him specific networking groups in his community that he could get involved with as well as several professional connections.
Marketing guru, Seth Godin, has a philosophy that always sticks with me. In the world as it is today, we are all challenged in creating lasting connections because of all the clutter that fills our lives, such as social media distracting us every minute. When meeting someone for the first time, you need to stick out from the pack and have something unique to offer.
In order to do this, you need to ask questions and listen. Now, I’m not saying that one path is necessarily better than the other, but I will confidently say that if you find yourself asking more questions than talking, using active listening and providing valuable content to help the other person, you’ll leave feeling more confident about creating meaningful lasting connections built on trust.
2.) Treat Others The Same Way You Wish To Be Treated
I should first start by reminding us of the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is all great when we’re on the playground, but we need to shift our thinking when we talk about building new relationships.
The book, The Platinum Rule states, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” In other words, treat others the way they want to be treated, rather than the way you want to be treated. It’s not selfish. It means you actually have to find out what others want. This approach can make a huge impact on the way you build relationships with others.
Countless studies have found that social relationships are the best guarantee of heightened well-being and lowered stress, both an antidote for depression and a prescription for high performance.
Trust me. I’ve seen the difference this makes in my own life, both personally and professionally. For my meetings last week, I thought about each person I was to be meeting with and categorized them, depending on what I knew about them. One meeting was with a cheery, social butterfly type woman who is always open about her life and things happening in it. My second meeting was with an older gentleman, an author and professor, who contemplates each response before he answers. My last meeting was with a Founder/CEO of a treatment program who I knew had limited time to see me, as he directly told me prior to our meeting and was very to the point in his responses. My approach and communication with each one of these meetings was customized to that particular person’s behavioral style. When I met with the social butterfly, we chatted openly and I shared more of my personal feelings on topics. When I had coffee with the “professor” I made sure to give him space to answer and knew that my personal follow up after our meeting would be the most important step in building our relationship. When I met with the Founder/CEO, I kept my answers short, direct and to the point, positioning myself so he could stare directly at me, and making sure I didn’t get too personal with my questions in this first meeting. There’s so much involved in understanding someone’s behavioral style, that I highly recommend you read the book, The Platinum Rule.
Most importantly, you should start with understanding what behavioral style you are, then you can adjust your style in the way to best connect with others.
3.) Meet Once & Forget About It
You meet all these great people and start to establish some great connections. Awesome! What often happens is life gets in the way, and we slowly lose the connection we established because time passes. How are you getting in touch with those in
your network, in your life? Chlipala talks about how she has grown her Relationship Reality practice so successfully because she has taken the initiative to reach out to others in her industry and make an intentional effort to follow up after every first meeting. She says she puts the time into following up and this has not only benefited her business, but she has made some incredible friendships along the way. There are so many CRM platforms out there, like Salesforce or HubSpot that can help you manage your connections. Find the one that works for you and start building your network with intentionality and focus.
Shawn Achor, speaker and author who studies happiness, says, “Countless studies have found that social relationships are the best guarantee of heightened well-being and lowered stress, both an antidote for depression and a prescription for high performance.” Knowing the positive impact relationships have in our lives, both personal and professional, why wouldn’t we want to dedicate the time and focus on building relationships. Get out there and be worth connecting with.