Almost everything you have accomplished, or will ever accomplish, or may never accomplish can be traced to the quality of your relationships.
Go ahead and write down the name of every HIGHLY successful person you know, or have ever known, heard about, or read about. Your list may include family members, friends, bosses and co-workers known by very few others, or your list may include international leaders known around the world and throughout history. Make your list as long as possible.
Now go through your list and put a check mark next to the name of every one of those HIGHLY successful people who achieved their success all by themselves. In other words, they had no help, no support, no input, no guidance, and no encouragement from anyone else. If you're like the thousands of others who have taken this challenge, chances are you'll have no check marks whatsoever.
The truth is that almost everything you have accomplished, or will ever accomplish can be traced to the quality of your relationships. That being the case, you should never ever leave your relationships to chance. Build them. Nurture them. And strengthen them. Because there are very few things that will pay off as well as your relationships on and off the job.
So what can you do to build better, stronger, healthier relationships? Here are a few simple communication techniques you can use on a regular basis. Start using the ones that make the most sense to you.
- Use the other person's name
Whether you are passing someone in the hall, entering a meeting room, or greeting a friend at dinner, speak the other person's name. Instead of merely saying "Good morning," say "Good morning, Bill". It makes the other person feel important, and we all want that.
- Never eat alone
Successful people grab lunch with friends and colleagues. As career coach Anita Attridge tells Forbes magazine, "Lunch is an excellent time to continue to build relationships and network with others". Once again it tells the other person that they are important because you are making time for them.
- Respect the other person's time
Everybody is busy these days, and many people are crazy busy. So if you ask for ten minutes of someone's time for a brief conversation, stick to your agreement. Don't go past your ten minutes unless the other person gives you permission to go on. That way the other person will look forward to talking to you rather than dreading it.
- Pay attention to non-verbal cues
Look for signs that may indicate the person is losing interest or becoming impatient, and adjust your conversation to be more sensitive to their needs, expectations or time constraints.
- Have something of interest to say
Knowing all about the latest in pop culture will not help you get ahead in your professional networks. Consume your actual real-world news in whatever form you choose, and be familiar and conversant in local, national and international politics and events.
- Adapt your communication style to fit with the other person's style of communicating
In the book You Can't Do It Alone: Building Relationships for Career Success, Glass and Brody say, "Mirror the personality and behavioural style of the person with whom you are meeting". In other words, do they want the big picture or the details? Do they speak quickly or slowly? Do they want to spend more time on small talk or get right down to business? Honour the other person's preferences if at all possible.
- Help the other person succeed
As human relations expert Anthony Robbins points out, "Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something - they're trying to find someone who's going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take".
- Send more notes
If you've arranged a special meeting with someone, follow up that meeting with a thank-you note. Send a handwritten note thanking the person for taking the time to meet with you. Send greeting cards ... birthday, holiday, congratulations, and sympathy cards. Very few people practice this so-called ‘common courtesy’ anymore, so your note automatically puts you in the top tier of thoughtful, appreciative, professional people.
- Ask more questions
If it's been a while since you've spoken to the other person, ask, “What's new?” and be genuinely interested in their answer. Notice items displayed in their offices; ask about their weekend. Learn about their hobbies and interests and ask about them. Most people appreciate being the centre of your attention.
- Look for ways to be of help, and then do it
Learn about the problems and issues the other person has to deal with. Find solutions. When you learn the other person needs a service, offer to connect the person to your resources (for example, travel agents, nanny service, etc.). It may be as simple as saying, “I heard you say that you are looking for a new personal accountant. I’m really happy with the person I’m using. Would you like me to connect the two of you?” Or offer to drive the other person to a meeting you are both attending.
When it comes to building relationships that work, the little things do matter.