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Developing new relationships

We all know how important relationships are to our success and happiness. Nobody achieves anything without the support of others, and achievements can seem empty, if not shared with others.

While this article could apply equally to maintaining existing relationships, the focus is on giving some pointers for developing new relationships.At turning points in our careers and personal lives it will become important for us to build new business, personal or intimate relationships, without which our capacity for success and happiness will be constrained.

This can seem daunting, as many of us have become comfortable with our current ‘circle’ of friends/colleagues, or may not have had the need to expand our circle through contact with ‘strangers’ for some time. For example, following the loss of a job you will need to establish new relationships with recruiters or potential employers, possibly in fields where you have no previous contacts or experience.

I say ‘relationships’ rather than ‘contacts’, as the latter may be no more than telephone numbers and email addresses. A small number of meaningful relationships is far better than a long contact list.

So you meet someone new…. how do you give this encounter the best chance of becoming a meaningful relationship?

Firstly, be open minded and aware of the filters through which you see other people. It is so easy to fall into the trap of  categorizing  others by reference to social stereo types that we have bought into, often unconsciously eg blondes are dumb, fat people are lazy, artistic types are unreliable, accountants are boring, politicians are corrupt, Cavan people are mean etc … the list is truly endless. Likewise do not be overly impressed by a good first impression.

There are also the prejudices we have, based on our own experiences and upbringing. If, for example someone looks like or reminds you of someone from your past, the temptation is to assume they are the same. Simple awareness of this will make you more likely to remain open minded.

Try to accept people as they are, even if their values and beliefs are different from yours. Be genuinely respectful of views different from your own. Try to see where the other person is  coming from and be prepared to compromise if necessary for the sake of the relationship and a ‘win win’ result.

Secondly, listen ! I mean really listen to what the other has to say and and show a genuine interest in what is being said to you. Also, observe the tone of speech and body language of the other person for signs of what is unspoken and being communicated between the lines.  If, while the other person is talking, you find yourself mentally preparing what to say next you are not listening or observing.

Pick or create an environment which is conducive to listening and put your mobile phone on silent ! You will build empathy though follow up questions and through checking understanding from time to time…proves you are listening.

Thirdly, be authentic. Setting out to create a certain impact or convey a certain image, which is not authentic hasn’t much of a future and undermines trust. People are more perceptive than we think and they can see through these facades. Of course, you will wish to come across as a positive confident person ( recommended!), but in so doing be yourself.

Fourthly, build trust and be trustworthy through consistency between what you say and what you do. If you say you will do something, do it. If there is a problem in following through, say so in a timely manner and apologize. Trust is really important in all relationships and once broken can be very difficult to rebuild.

Communicate clearly and honestly – no game playing.  If you are not sure where the other person is coming from don’t mind read – ask!

Finally, be aware of boundaries and stay within them – your boundaries and the other persons boundaries. These may be narrow initially but will widen as the relationship develops. This is a matter of judgement and experience, but while trust is developing it is natural and acceptable for there to be ‘no go areas’. If you are perceived as being overly intrusive this will cause people to back away from the relationship.

Relationship building takes time and effort so be patient !

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