12 Most Friendly Ways to Use Conversation to Build Relationships
Authors like Susan Scott (Fierce Conversations) and Deborah Tannen (numerous books on communication, including You Just Don’t Understand and Talking From Nine to Five) say that relationships are built one conversation at a time. Here are some friendly, easy ways to build strong relationships.
1. Say hello
Don’t wait for the other person to greet you. Don’t walk into a meeting or social event and stand there. Say “Hello.” Smile. Greet others as soon as you see them.
2. Ask genuine questions
Instead of falling right into the default “So, what do you do?” ask more evocative questions. Try questions like “What has been most beneficial to you over the last few months?” or “What do you enjoy most about what you do?” Think of questions as ways to get real information about someone else, not just exchange job titles.
3. Share opinions respectfully
It’s pretty much guaranteed you will end up speaking with people who have different opinions. Possibly you’ll disagree about something you consider important. You certainly should share your opinion, but do so with respect. Don’t assume you are right and your task is to convince the other person why you are right. Her opinion makes as much sense to her as yours does to you. Share respectfully — you’ll do yourself and your opinion more good that way.
4. Invite others to share opinions
Don’t stop with your opinion. Invite others to share too — even those who disagree. Even if you never agree with the opinion, it’s always good to hear what others have to say.
With all this sharing going on, it’s easy to focus on what you have to say and how you can say it convincingly. But the most important thing you can do to have great conversations and build relationships is to listen well. Really listen — try to understand, ask for clarification, and don’t interrupt. You’ll be amazed what you learn!
6. Say something nice
Such a simple thing, but amazingly powerful: just say something nice. Compliment Tom on a job well done on the proposal. Tell Susan you enjoyed her presentation last week. Tell David to have a good vacation (because you remember he told you he was going away). Saying something nice builds a strong foundation for more difficult statements that may come later. A genuine compliment will make a lasting impression.
7. Prepare for important conversations
Some conversations have big potential for affecting your future. Prepare for these. Think about what you want to happen. Put your goal into words. Make some notes. Be prepared. This works with phone calls too, as well as email and other written conversations. Be prepared for success and you’re more likely to end up there.
8. Control your emotions
Ever had a conversation that somehow spun out of control and ended up with bad feelings and words you wish you hadn’t spoken or heard? Usually a burst of emotion is at the center of such disasters. Be aware of your emotion and know when to take a step back. It’s better to say “I need a break — let’s take ten” than to push ahead and say something you’ll never be able to take back.
9. Use straightforward language
Your language is an opportunity to express ideas. Don’t choose words because they might impress people. The goal of communication is to make connection and share ideas. Straightforward language that’s easy to understand is the best tool to accomplish that goal.
10. Match actions to words
This is sometimes expressed as “Walk the talk” (the opposite of the often-stated “Do as I say, not as I do”). People expect your actions to match your words. When you say you’ll do something, do it. Be consistent and honest. If you fall short, own up to that and make amends. Consistency creates an opportunity for an ongoing relationship of trust.
11. Express appreciation
Volunteering in an elementary classroom years ago, I handed a child his treat. When he didn’t respond, I prompted “What’s the magic word?” I was looking for “thanks,” but he replied with questioning eyes, “Abracadabra?” Hilarious moment. But truly, “thank you” can work magic. People thrive on appreciation, so express it sincerely and often.
12. Speak with respect
In all you do, especially in areas of disagreement, speak with respect. Honor the value of others and their opinions. Sarcasm, snide remarks, and jokes at another’s expense work against your credibility and weaken relationships. When you speak with respect, you will be valued as a team member and colleague.
We all have a series of small, medium, and large conversations most days. Some are clearly big, important conversations that have the potential to change careers and futures. Others simply present an opportunity to make a connection and help someone have a better day. All conversations contribute to relationship building. What can you do to have more productive conversations?
Featured image courtesy of Ben Heine licensed via Creative Commons.