By Gale Mote / Guest Column

I believe that Dale Carnegie had it right when he said, “you can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

As I write this article, I am returning from a trip to Hong Kong. I was there for 10 days teaching my team course for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business MBA program. My students were with me for a total of 28 hours. When I left, there were hugs, selfies, team photos and celebrations. Many of them have connected with me on LinkedIn. I’m certain some of them will stay in contact with me for years to come.

In a short amount of time, I was able to connect in a meaningful way with people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds. The experience caused me to reflect on the essence of building positive relationships in work and life. We know that success is always about the relationship. Without solid relationships, we have no customers, suppliers, employees, no family – no one.

So, what actions help us to connect with strangers and acquaintances so that we begin to form the necessary relationships to conduct successful business?

First, I believe you need to be genuine and authentic. Don’t try to be someone you are not. While it is important to err on the side of professionalism (you might want to lose the ring in your tongue until people get to know you better), be your real self. This will build trust because they are already getting to know who you are, inside and out.

Be curious, not furious, with people you don’t understand or who are different from you. Listen more, speak less. When all you can hear is the sound of your own voice, stop talking. When you want to make a statement, ask a question. Demonstrating a sincere interest in others is a great way to lay the first brick in the foundation of a solid relationship. Being quiet teaches us so much.

Of course, you must be attentive. I have disciplined myself to concentrate on someone’s name when I meet them for the first time. I quickly repeat the name to myself and then use it in our conversation within 30 seconds. People love the sound of their own name. It shows great respect and caring when you can actually remember their name. My students were amazed that I knew all 31 of their names when they came in the second day of class without badges or name tents.

I keep my antennas up when I am engaging in conversations with others. Be watchful for the nonverbal cues and subtle actions that often speak louder than words. Work to make connections between information they are sharing and what is true for you. We have more in common than we have differences.

Be vulnerable – don’t be afraid to risk and share things about yourself that show others you trust them. I’m not talking about disclosing deep personal secrets. You don’t want to assume that someone is your best friend the first time you meet – that is a little too much interpersonal relationship. For example, on the first day of class, I shared with my students my strengths and some of my weaknesses too.

This gave them permission to begin to be more open with me as well.

Lastly, be positive and welcoming. No one is going to reciprocate a Grumpy Gus or a Negative Nellie. Create a space where we focus on what is right and good. This makes people want to continue a relationship with you because you focus on what can be.

Relationships are the foundation of great success, and begin with you reaching out and making connections, one person at a time.

Gale Mote is a trainer, organizational development catalyst and coach in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at galemote@galemoteassociates.com

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