One of the most important things in life is the ability to deal effectively with other people. This applies at work and home, when meeting up with relatives and friends, and in the many different interactions which are part of everyday encounters.
Whatever the situation, we should be asking ourselves what can be done to build stronger relationships, improve understanding and general communication, or at least ensure that one-off exchanges go smoothly even when we are unlikely to speak to that person again.
The point is that building stronger relationships isn’t about trying to make everyone feel like a “best friend” or, alternatively, just focusing our efforts on an inner circle of a limited number of colleagues, contacts and family members.
Instead, we should be considering what needs to be done to communicate more effectively with whoever we come across and to regard every conversation as a chance to show yourself in a good light and leave a positive impression on someone else.
When we fail to do this, there can be a range of different reasons, but three are especially common, The first is that we can be too focused on our own priorities and objectives and are not prepared to listen to any other point of view. The second comes from regarding the situation as a one-off and, therefore, thinking there is no obligation to be polite or considerate. And the third is a failure – deliberate or otherwise – to pick up on obvious signs that the other person is disinterested, distracted, disengaged, or worse.
Remember, if you do not respect and value the importance of relationships, nothing will change. You should accept that building them requires care and commitment, and not believe that a relationship is only worthwhile when it can help you get ahead in some way or achieve a defined objective.
Of course, one of the crucial ingredients in any strong relationship is the ability to inspire trust. That can take time, but paying due attention to three essential elements can make all the difference. The first is credibility and it comes, a step at a time, from doing what you say, offering sound advice, sticking to agreements, and simply being reliable.
The next is proven capability, in other words being willing and able to instruct, guide, act as mentor, or just point someone in the right direction. And the third is likability, or the knack of coming across as open and approachable. It is a distinct skill which is often overlooked or ignored. But if people feel they can reach out to you and want to spend time in your company, there is the basis for a strong ongoing connection.
However, if being approachable is something which doesn’t come naturally, a few things can help. For instance, be ready to listen, put yourself in the other person’s shoes, ask questions with a degree of empathy, and be genuine and supportive whatever turns the discussion takes. Besides that, it is also useful to share some of your own thoughts and experiences, when and where appropriate. This is a good way to acknowledge someone else’s feelings and show that, with the right plan of action, it is possible to overcome any problem or challenge they may now be facing.
Finally, in situation like this, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the ideas or advice you give must automatically be right, Being approachable also means letting others weight up what you have to say and letting them make decisions or reach conclusions in their own good time.
Strengthening relationships requires thought and consistency. It takes energy and effort, but the investment is sure to pay off in terms of friendships, followers, and better business contacts.