“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” —Daniel Goleman
We hear a lot lately about employee engagement, teamwork and the importance of forming good relationships at work. While individuals may be highly brilliant and talented, few of us work in a vacuum; therefore our ability to develop relationships with others determines how successful we will be in our workplaces and in our relationships outside of work. People are not born with natural abilities to develop and build great relationships with others. These are skills like any other that can be learned and mastered if one recognizes the need and takes the time and effort to develop them. We can all become better relationship builders by clearing our minds and practicing a few basic necessary acts.
1. BECOME A GREAT LISTENER
Everyone has the basic desire to be heard and understood. Unfortunately few of us are taught how to be great listeners. Most people are too busy thinking of what they want to say next to really listen to what the other person is saying. We often have our own agendas of what we want to talk about and can’t wait for the other person to stop talking so we can talk about what we want. When you notice yourself doing this, take a breath and correct your pattern by listening well. We naturally bond with and want to spend time with people who really listen, hear us and want to spend time with them.
2. ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
The best way to let someone know that we hear them is to make sure that we understand what they are saying. To do this we dig deeper and ask questions. We repeat back to them what they said in our own words to make sure what we heard makes sense to us. One possible way of making this happen is to say, “What I heard you say was…..”. When others sense that we are making a sincere attempt to understand them, they tend to open up and share more with us. This deepens the relationship and places us in the category of people they want to seek out and talk to.
3. PAY ATTENTION TO THE WHOLE PERSON
We tend to remember and appreciate the person who ask us if everything is okay, even if we haven’t told them that anything is wrong. This tells us they are paying attention to us and we all want that. When someone is speaking, focus not only on the tone of their words, but their facial expression and body language. Notice when someone’s words don’t match their facial expression or body language. This will open doors to having deeper, more meaningful conversations that will lead to develop trust and stronger connections.
4. REMEMBER THINGS IMPORTANT TO OTHERS
There is no more beautiful sound to our ears than the sound of our own name. Remembering a person’s name is the first step to relationship building. Remembering other important aspects about them continues the building process. They will tell us what is important in their lives, all we need to do is listen and pay attention. When they are speaking about a family member, an event or a hobby and their faces light up, remember this factoid as it is important to them. We don’t have to remember everything about them, just focus on their names and one important piece of information. Some people, who are known for building relationships, keep a small portfolio of important information on significant people in their lives so they will have a written record to refer to in order to the keep facts accurate.
5. BE CONSISTENT AND MANAGE EMOTIONS
People whose mood swings from hot to cold have a difficult time creating meaningful relationships. Regardless of how we are feeling, we need to be able to temporarily put those feelings aside to fully listen and engage others that are important in our lives. If we are going through a period where we are experiencing strong emotions that keep us from being fully present with the other person, we are better off letting this individual know what is going on for us, rather than pretending to listen. They will appreciate our honesty and openness.
6. BEING OPEN AND SHARING WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT
We all know people who tell us their whole life story in the first five minutes of meeting us, totally oblivious to the fact that we likely have absolutely no interest in hearing it. To build strong relationships we need to be able to pace ourselves and share when appropriate and at a level that is consistent with the depth of the relationship. Good relationship builders show they are sharing the feelings of the other by mirroring emotions of the person speaking. Sharing excitement, joy, sorrow, frustration and disappointment helps connect us to others. When possible share a situation from your own experience to show that you can relate to the other’s experience, but never so that it overshadows or competes with their experience. This requires empathy and sensitivity to their feelings.
7. BEING GENUINE, CONFIDENT, HUMBLE, TRUSTWORTHY, POSITIVE AND FUN
People who build great relationships feel good about who they are and always look for the positive in their world. They genuinely want the best for others and want to see them succeed. Being very comfortable in their own skin, upbeat and positive; the energy they exude creates an atmosphere where we feel good, want to be around and want to spend time with them. They don’t gossip about others and keep what we tell them in confidence. Being self-confident, they don’t feel the need to draw attention to themselves. They always have time for the significant others in their lives. They are life-long learners who are always open to and looking for opportunities for self-improvement.