With apologies to Elvis, we need a little more conversation. Conversing together, sharing with each other, is a hallmark of what it means to be human. And yet, many of the interactions we have at work are action-oriented, outcome-driven, or meeting-based (and very few meetings in my career have fostered true interpersonal conversations).
If we want to make work more human, we need to facilitate more and better conversations – along the full spectrum of what it means to engage with other humans in a supportive and developmentally relational way. This may not always be easy, but it is simple.
Simply do a little more in these three areas to make your relationships at work more meaningful and more productive.
Start building strong relationships by reaching out and talking with others – engaging with them in meaningful ways and, critically, in ways that are meaningful to them.
My team just completed a very interesting communications styles profiling and training session in which we each learned our own communication style based on our dominant brain preference. More importantly, we learned how to engage others more effectively by communicating with them based on their dominant brain preference. That’s the essence of both powerful communication as well as powerful connection – approaching from the other perspective first, rather than your own.
Once even a tenuous relationship is built through simple communication, step it up by looking for opportunities to sincerely thank the other person for who they are and for what they do. This requires us to pick our heads up out of our own work and busyness to notice more fully those around us, their own busyness, the contributions they are making, and the impacts they are having on ourselves and on others.
The need to be seen, to be noticed, to be valued, to be appreciated is also a fundamental human need. Sincerely, specifically and meaningfully saying “thank you” is a great gift to others as well as a sure path to deepen relationships.
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A strong relational foundation of appreciation also creates a level of trust to ask for feedback on how to grow, learn, develop, and improve. We all have areas where we are strong as well as areas where we can do better. Imperfection is also a part of the human condition. Acknowledging that no one is perfect (and neither am I), gives us the freedom to ask others for the feedback we need. And when we step out first to ask others for feedback, we also give them the psychological safety they need to give us the feedback we need to hear.
Openness with others (and honesty with ourselves) leads to more meaningful relationships. And our relationships with co-workers is one of the strongest drivers of a positive employee experience and to our sense of belonging in an organization. Being more open requires that we talk more, thank more, and ask more.
With whom do you have solid relationships at work? Who do you talk with the most? Who are you most comfortable asking for the perhaps hard-to-hear feedback? And who comes to you when they need to hear the same?