Three steps to creating powerful relationships
In my previous article I promised you I would share some tools to go deeper into creating powerful relationships. Let me begin with a true story.
Many years ago, I was appointed interim Europe-wide Sales Director for a global brand. As an interim, it was essential for me to hit the ground running and build positive relationships quickly.
About a week in, the most experienced and influential team member stormed into my office, very angry about something I had done. This took me by surprise. I stood up (to be at an even level with them) and said, “I’m not sure exactly what I have done but I apologise as I know how much you care about this organisation.” This stopped the person in their tracks, and they said yes, yes, I do care. I replied “I know. I’ve seen it since the day I arrived”.
The individual sat down in a chair and repeated, “I really do care about this organisation”. I sat down too, repeated, “I know”, and we sat together in silence for a time. What followed the silence was a very productive conversation. After that, the individual became my strongest advocate, helped to gather the sales team behind me, and we smashed all the targets we were given.
I’m telling you this not to blow my own trumpet, but to demonstrate a way to engage in and build powerful relationships.
Back in the 1940s, the psychiatrist Dr Carl Rogers became increasingly frustrated at being expected to be the expert with his patients. He realised it was impossible to know more about his patients in six sessions than they already knew about themselves. He wondered if he could enable them to look inside themselves to find their own answers. Rather than telling them his ideas and solutions, could he help them to find their own answers to their problems?
By turning conventional wisdom on its head, Dr Rogers figured that instead of the doctor becoming the expert, the patient was already the expert. Patients could be supported to discover their own answers, heal themselves and move forward productively in their lives, according to their unique personal style and life experiences. Just as a tree needs sunshine, water and soil to grow, Dr Rogers identified three core elements to facilitate his patients’ growth:
Empathy – having an emotional understanding of the other person’s perspective, from their world view and experience. In day-to-day life it can be hard to empathise with people who are different to us or who display spiky behaviour. It’s essential to realise that most people are doing the best they can with the information they have
Non-Judgementalism, or Acceptance – suspending judgement about the other person and their motives, personality, personal style etc. If you can value their humanity at the core of who they are, (perhaps they’re struggling to cope with the world right now because of their history), then it’s easier to be less judgemental.
Authenticity – authenticity leads to consistency, which builds trust. Trust is the basis of all relationships. It takes courage to be authentic, yet the rewards are exceptional, particularly in terms of the way others engage with you. If you want some inspiration, check out the film 12 Angry Men starring Henry Fonda.
Returning to my original story, let’s see how this applies:
Empathy – I had noticed and understood this person cared deeply about the organisation.
Non-judgementalism – I didn’t judge them for being angry with me. I accepted that, given the importance of the organisation in this person’s life, it was fair enough they were angry.
Authenticity – this all happened in the space of a few minutes. I was unprepared for them to come into my office that way, so my response was 100% authentic. Had I been manipulative and tried to use some technique or other, it wouldn’t have worked. I’d have probably alienated them and the entire team, ultimately leading to my failure in the job.
In summary, we all want to be heard, understood, and accepted. It’s part of being human. Offering this to others is a generous gift and a win-win for creating powerful relationships.
Give it a go yourself, perhaps with friends and family first and then try it out at work. You might be surprised with how quickly people respond positively to you, and how good it makes you feel about yourself, the world and humanity.
Let me know how you get on.