Last time we looked at ways to build relationships in business, including smiling, giving a firm handshake, calling others by name, listening, and taking a genuine interest in people.
We will now examine some more ways to connect with others and build those key relationships.
Don’t Begin with Criticism
It’s important to begin a relationship on a positive note. In the early stages, keep criticism to yourself.
Criticism puts others on the defensive and makes them strive to justify themselves. Some people will shut down and distance themselves from the complainer.
Many people fail to recognize how much complaining or criticizing they do. It’s invisible to them.
A magazine editor asked a colleague of mine to critique an article before publishing it. The editor liked the critique so much he asked for permission to print it. My colleague declined. He did not want his first appearance in the magazine to be a criticism of someone else’s work.
Flattery is from the teeth out. Sincere appreciation is from the heart out.
Benjamin Franklin, tactless in his youth but diplomatic and adroit at handling people later in his life, said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain—and most fools do.”
Be a More Appreciative Person
We long for sincere praise and seldom get it. Giving appreciation is often misunderstood and mistakenly labelled as manipulative.
When we suggest people give specific, positive feedback in a meeting, many express discomfort receiving feedback. This indicates that this kind of feedback often is missing in the workplace.
If I work for you and all I hear is criticism and negative feedback, I’ll say to myself, “Nobody is that bad!” However, if all I hear are positives, my reaction is, “Nobody’s that good!”
A rule of thumb is to begin with praise and keep your critical feedback to yourself until you’re connected at a level of trust and rapport.
Give sincere, specific compliments to everyone you meet and forget about a return on investment for your praise. Instead, work on becoming a more appreciative person.
To genuinely connect, it is critical to let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
Charles Schwab, the first person to receive a million-dollar salary in the 1930s, said, “There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of a person as criticism from his superiors. I am anxious to praise and loath to find fault.”
Before you dismiss this as ineffective with discerning, intelligent people, remember that flattery is from the teeth out, while sincere appreciation is from the heart out.
If all we had to do was to use flattery, everybody would be an expert in human relations. Forget flattery. Instead, give honest, sincere appreciation as a way to become a more appreciative person.
Genuine Interest in Others
One of our clients lost a $1 million-a-year customer. A new employee took it upon himself to get this customer back even though others had tried and failed.
He chose to reconnect with the customer, and push himself to listen for what was truly important to the customer. Once this was clear to him, he asked for another chance, and the customer agreed. Today, that account generates more than the lost revenue.
There are those who say, “We do this all the time, it’s just common sense.” Ask yourself, how many people who provide you with goods or services actually act from this commitment?
Do they connect with you as an individual and uncover what your organization values before pitching benefits?
Do they listen for what’s important to you and your organization before offering “solutions”?
Do they seem genuinely interested, or are they just waiting for an opening to talk about themselves and their company?
You’ll soon realize that genuine interest in others is far from common practice.
A recurring mistake is investing time worrying about how the other person might respond to our compliments. When our feedback is genuine, we are working on becoming a more appreciative person, rather than manipulating others to get our way. This is an important distinction.
Have courage to give feedback and leave the other person free to react as they will.
Listen for Others’ Points of View
We learn what others value when they tell us. Assumptions, speculation, and guesswork do not give us access to another’s viewpoint. To genuinely connect, it is critical to let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
Do most people follow this simple advice? (I’ll let you decide).
Dale Carnegie cites a study of 500 telephone conversations. What word was used 3,900 times in these calls? You guessed it: “I, I, I.” Some of us have an “I” problem. I’d love to see a new study of text messages that reflect this tendency.
Stay focused on your commitment to become even more genuinely interested in others. Remember that, over time, habits of behaviour entrench themselves. You may become a people-magnet faster than you think.
Dave Mather is a Performance Improvement Specialist at Dale Carnegie Business Group in Toronto. His columns can be read at ept.ms/dave-mather
Find Dave on LinkedIn.
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