How to Build Engaging Relationships with Others

Dale Carnegie wrote 85 years ago: "to be interesting, become interested."

Stephen Covey wrote 35 years ago: "seek first to understand, then to be understood."

Both of these classics text reference a similar concept:

You build engaging relationships with people by asking questions.

Asking effective questions is a skill, like shooting free throws or downhill skiing, and requires coordination, practice, and the willingness to fall flat on your face every now and again.

Here's a few steps to asking better questions:

  • Reframe. It's easy to see yourself as the main character in the story. If you do, everyone else is an extra on the stage of your drama. This may work in the short-term, but people will sense it and move on. Reframe your encounters with others where you're the helpful guide rather than the main character. Being genuinely curious in others comes from a place of humility and a desire to serve rather than to be seen.

  • Observe. The people around us present a hundred small clues as to their personality, history and interests if we can only learn to see them. If you struggle to break the ice with someone, focus on something that's unique to them, and ask them about it.

  • Listen. Most conversations are actually verbal turn-taking where we care more about what we'll say next than what our conversational partner is saying in the moment. Slow down, surrender the desire to tell stories that are cooler than theirs, and ask a follow up question based on what they've just said.

  • Borrow. If you're not adept in this art, start paying attention to people who might be. Listen with a special ear to how a podcast host interviews a guest, how an HR manager interacts with an applicant, how a grandmother interacts with her grandchild. Over time, you'll acquire a skill set that will enable you to build engaging relationships more quickly.

At Trellis Group, we believe chaos is the enemy of the small business. It's our mission to partner with small business owners and their teams to develop the managerial practices and processes to crush chaos. If you feel overwhelmed and need a proven system to focus on the next best thing, we can help. Companies who work with us see revenues go up, anxiety go down, and work becomes a force multiplier for good in the lives of your people. Reach out to discover how the Trellis Group can help you crush chaos.


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