Key factors in building relationships: safety, a sense of being respected, and choice. Communicating clearly is fundamental to these. More specifically, listening deeply to others, taking a genuine interest in what they are sharing, being curious, and asking meaningful questions about the other person are what contribute to creating a bond where these three elements are present. We hunger to be heard and understood. When we feel heard and understood, meaningful interaction has a much better chance to ignite.

When I think about building relationships in business, I think back to old movies where small town storekeepers knew customers by name, knew what was happening for them, asked them how those specific things were going for them, and offered to help them with ‘How can I help you today?’. As typically depicted, there was a genuine interest in the whole person.

In today’s fast paced and somewhat anonymous world, we may have a tendency in business to get focused on the bottom line, the return on investment in terms of dollars and cents along with other numerical measurements, and the volume of what we can put through in a day. We may even measure our own value as an employee based on these measurements. However, we humans are not robots. We crave connection and meaning. These are what engage us – as individuals, employees, customers, leaders, owners.

Our greatest win-win interactions, be they with customers, colleagues, bosses, employees, family, or friends, involve being present, caring without judging. and connecting through curiosity. When we communicate in this way, we build real bonds. When we build real bonds, the rest follows. People want to be with each other because they sense that they are safe, understood, and supported.