Dr. Carole Robin, one of the authors of Connect, hosted an online keynote address dealing with building exceptional relationships. We all know that relationships, by any nature, are challenging to manage, and without proper and meaningful communication, it can be an overall disaster.
Dr. Robin explains that communication in personal and business relationships is vital. The reason, stated simply, is that people do business with people. Business is not and cannot be conducted without the human element.
The first three characteristics of any relationship are:
Being yourself fully
Knowing the other person fully
Trusting what is disclosed to another person can only happen once you fully accept yourself and learn to trust the other person. Few people willingly and fully disclose their elements to colleagues or people they have just met. Trust needs to be built before there is a level of comfort to disclose pieces of ourselves. The benefits of self-disclosure far outweigh the costs of not doing so. Firstly, when we comfortably open up to others, we create more chances to connect and build trust. However, the cost results in what Dr. Robin calls progressive impoverishment. It involves the idea that the less you tell me, the less I will tell you.
Even though disclosure is the key to developing trustworthy relationships, it is often difficult to decide how much to disclose and to who. However, she goes on to say that learning and growth happen only once someone steps out of their comfort zone. Her rule or advice to anyone grappling with the decision is to step beyond your comfort zone by 15%. The one advantage of this is that you can control the narrative about you. “People will make things up in the absence of data,” she says, which often leads to misunderstandings.
When Dr. Robin refers to disclosure, she does not say we must confess our dark and deepest secrets or desires. She refers to disclosing to your colleagues or another person simply who you are as a person.
The emotive side of communication is not always the easiest to solve or overcome, but just as vital to establishing meaningful connections. Emotions impact disclosure. It is important to note that feelings give meaning to facts, and emotions indicate the importance of data. Adding emotions and feelings to facts or events you share gives the listener more information about you and gives the interaction more depth.
Further, using the correct adjective to describe the depth of your emotion about something gives the other person a better idea of the problem or issue.
Many people feel uncomfortable with sharing, and this is due to various reasons, but more often, it comes down to the following:
Part of the communication process is giving back and providing feedback. Dr. Robin encourages people to reciprocate the disclosure. When someone discloses to you, be kind and reciprocate by disclosing something about you.
By curious and offering genuine interest. Do not judge and do not advise.
Dr. Robin further says that questions should be managed. Asking questions may seem to display interest, but questions are usually limiting. Make sure that your questions are productive and that they encourage interaction.
The hallmarks of relationship building are being honest with each other, raising difficulties, and committing to each other's growth in the relationship. Dr. Robin warns that if there is no safe space or trust in the relationship, there is no room for raising issues that annoy you. An annoyance is what she refers to as ‘pinchers.’ She says, “pinchers can be crunches” if you fail to address them.
Dr. Robin says that feedback is powerful when done correctly. However, valuable feedback is rare, and this is due to people being afraid. Feedback is often seen as unfavorable, but it is a gift. In any situation, more data is far better than less.
You can move into a problem-solutions conversation with valuable feedback and not remain in a negative loop of blame and accusation.
Building excellent relationships become easy with open and meaningful interaction and learning to communicate effectively. Effective communication can be learned, but the work starts with unlearning all the lousy communication habits.