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Building Authentic Relationships – It starts with You!

In our sphere of relationships with colleagues, partners, clients, friends, family, etc. – we are wired to place a high value on our connections with others.  While social media outlets certainly make it convenient to stay in touch, these channels are not conducive to understanding, strengthening and making authentic lasting connections. 

True Story: Many years ago, I was hired by a CEO to help spin off the company he was leading from the parent company.  During a lunch meeting, we were discussing key steps for the spin off.  My intent was to go beyond the transactional and go into the culture/relational areas that he could influence for a smoother transition.  I made several attempts to go there and had every intention to be of value to the CEO.  In the end, I decided to leave the organization and later found out both companies shut down due to several systems and control issues.   No matter the situation, genuine connection humanizes interactions and allows conversations to be more authentic and less guarded. This enables more challenging discussions, as each party feels comfortable enough with the other to say what really matters. A CEO’s job is complex and difficult, and this experience proved to me what I value in building meaningful connections.

Here are a few practices I value:

Honor Yourself. This remains the best place to start for me.  In the end, you are all you have.  I do all I can to build a path for self-discovery.  This means discovering your own core values and what really matters to you.

Intent.  This is key in building authentic relationships.  Ask yourself, “What is my intention for this relationship?” Is it transactional (i.e, I want to get what I need from them) or relational (i.e, I want to build a trusting relationship where both parties look for ways to be of value to the other person?

Good listening requires focus.  Whenever possible, let the person finish their thoughts before asking questions.  Do not think of your response while the other person continues talking.  Stay focused on what is being said and look at body language, choice of words and overall reaction for clues to how the person is feeling

Be Willing To Be Vulnerable.  To be vulnerable is to be human.   When we choose to take a level of responsibility others are not willing to take, we send a signal to the other person that we are approachable.

Openness.  Openness means the ability to see things for what they are, not what we think they should be.  This takes work because we see things as we are.  It means becoming aware of our biases, other people or even ourselves. Be conscious that they are multiple perspectives, with all people and even within ourselves. 

We build lives with people around us.  If this starts with you, what will you do to start establishing meaningful connections with those you work with, socialize with and live with? Which of these practices resonates most with you?