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Strengthening relationships at work

‘I don’t like that man very much, I must get to know him better.’ Abraham Lincoln

Relationships make the world go round.

Our families and friends. Our colleagues and leaders. Our customers and suppliers. Our government and communities. We rely on our relationships with others in every facet of life. The better quality our relationships, the more likely we are to work well with others and live alongside them and achieve more together.

However, sadly, the quality of relationships is often only really apparent when they are under strain. We’ve all been there I am sure – for example we think we have a good relationship with our team-mate but when it comes to supporting us during a difficult time, they let us down.

Now of course we can carefully curate some relationships. Entire departments are set up to do this – sales, marketing, communications. But real relationships are genuine, authentic and often messy.

In general, the development of a relationship generally follows the same pattern:

  1. Firstly, we seek to develop a connection with the other person. We talk about the weather, find common ground.
  2. The better the connection, the more engaged we become with that person. The more likely we are to actively seek out conversations with them to engage with them further.
  3. As the relationship develops further, you begin to have an influence over that person and they have one over you. You become influenced by their opinion and wants and needs and view of the world. You start to see the world differently because of them.
  4. If you take the relationship to the next level, you begin to collaborate with that person – do things together for mutual benefit, actively seeking to partner with the other rather than compete with them, taking their view of the world into consideration as you work with them.
  5. And then it moves to initiative, where you actively do something to benefit the other person off your own initiative. Just because. For example you take your loved one a coffee in bed without being asked. Because you can, because they like it and because you care about them and delight in their delight.

Relationships can also go the other way, and regularly do. It’s often only when they are tested that we really know how good they are.

And oh my, are they being tested right now!

Not being able to see people in person. Constantly moving from one Videoconference to another. Stuck in the same house with the same people day after day. Feeling some of the most powerful emotions: Fear, anxiety, guilt, grief, uncertainty. 

How many of us have seen relationships actually improve during this time? Relationships that we didn’t expect? I’ve noticed that traditional relationships have changed.

  • My supplier:client relationships have changed. They are more visceral, real, authentic and less curated.
  • The learner:trainer/facilitator relationship has changed. We are in this together, no-one has ‘the answer’ any more (if they ever did!).

The secret sauce that underpins all our relationships is communication. Not just talking and writing, but listening and reading and body language and context and emotions and all the other things we take in when we communicate. To improve our relationship with someone, we need to communicate with them more, get to know them better as Abraham Lincoln said.

So how do we improve relationships then, when we are mostly stuck in our houses, 2 metres away from anyone and communicating through Zoom or Teams?

Here is a series of videos taking you through a simple method you can use.



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