Building relationship is a “thing” now, a mantra within the networking, management and leadership circles. And rightly so. Seeking to build relationships honors our humanity, we are more than conduits engaging in mere exchange of insights and information, time and money and the cost-benefit analysis of these currencies.
We cannot build relationships unless we learn how to connect.
And the essence of real connection which we find so appealing, supportive, enriching and rewarding is intimacy. Intimacy is the glue that binds people. Without it, any connection is barren, void of the positive meaning.
But what is intimacy? It is a close, familiar and affectionate personal relationship with another and it arrives in different ways. We may have cognitive or intellectual intimacy with another with the sharing of ideas, visions, viewpoints, dreams and hopes. We may have experiential intimacy as we do work, however defined, together. We may also have emotional intimacy where feelings are shared between two or more people and our emotional needs are met or affirmed. And we have sexual intimacy which involves the sharing of sensual expression. This would include for example, the person whom we share our epicurean or creative interests.
There are many ways through which we develop intimacy in our professional life and connect.
And which comes first? Do we connect to enable intimacy to grow? Or is intimacy a prerequisite to connection? Instead of a linear cause-and-effect correlation, the relationship between intimacy and connection is reflexive.
Intimacy and connection are deliberate and conscious processes.
We must be willing to explore, to be interested in another’s life, to be present and available to them. Most importantly, we must be real. And we have to give it time to develop.
Hold new interactions lightly, watch it and see where it will grow. Let go of preconceived notions of how, what and why. Not every interaction becomes positive connection.
So how do we connect?
Be open and sociable. This does not mean be naive and gullible. It does however mean you do not approach every person you meet as a threat. Keep your head, open your heart.
Be authentic. Show who you really are. Stop being so guarded. It may feel vulnerable but my experience has been that most people are happy to receive the real you. Few people are out to harm.
Maintain your values. People with whom you connect will be those who share a certain ‘thing’ with you; this ‘thing’ which calls to you are underpinned by your values. Be yourself. Be honest.
In this endeavour of building relationships especially as a leader, let us be gentle, kind and respectful.
Which of us would refuse a genuine connection? On this premise, building relationship need not feel like an unsurpassable challenge.