By Stephen Key
When there’s only so much time in the day, it’s easy to overlook the value of building and maintaining your professional relationships. But being stressed and busy is no excuse. Relationships take effort, of course, but throughout my career, I’ve constantly been reminded that my success is dependent on the strength of my network. You really can’t do it all alone!
Thankfully, I’ve discovered that the simplest tricks — tricks you’ve heard before, but aren’t truly putting into practice — have an enormous impact on relationship building. They don’t take a lot of effort, but they do take commitment. That said, even taking these six simple steps can help you prioritize relationships in your life almost immediately.
1. Remember names.
Names have power. We’re all impressed when someone remembers our name, because it makes us feel important and worth remembering. Make an effort to cultivate that feeling in others. To help yourself remember, repeat someone’s name multiple times over the course of your conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat his or her name. And if you have forgotten a name, cop up to it. Asking to be reminded still shows you care.
2. Give people your undivided attention.
Look people straight in the eye. Yes, it’s intimate but don’t shy away from that. Making good eye contact demonstrates interest. It will also make you appear confident and charming. Do not let yourself be distracted by other people or whatever else is going on around you. And definitely do not look at your phone. Making someone feel like the most important person in the room when you’re talking to them can go a long way in building your relationship.
There is no easier way to get people to like and respect you than to listen intently. We all love sharing our own points of view. It’s much harder to simply shut up and let someone express himself. When you let people speak without interruption, they will become more and more comfortable with you. Without having said anything, you’ll put them at ease. I’ve found this advice especially beneficial during negotiations and when trying to help employees or colleagues reach their full potential. Often, people just want to be heard. And they feel much happier after they have.
4. Ask questions.
Start asking more questions. Asking questions demonstrates sincerity. If you meet someone who is quiet or having a hard time articulating his thoughts, ask him a question. Not too personal of a question, of course. But if you’re having trouble making conversation, start asking questions and you’ll be surprise how talkative people can get.
It’s the number one thing you can do to put someone at ease. When someone smiles at you, you pause, right? It can even be disarming — in a good way. Smiling does not come easily to everyone. You may need to practice. I’ve given many speeches and found that spending a few seconds simply smiling calmly at the podium before I get started helps put my audience at ease and get them on my side. It’s pretty remarkable how much power this very simple action holds.
6. Follow up.
If you say you’re going to follow up, do. Actually, I think that always following up is a good practice. Again, this is a very simple thing, which actually can have a lot of power. You’ll be remembered as thoughtful and caring. Don’t let too much time pass before getting in touch.
These six strategies add up. If you use all of them, you will leave a lasting, great impression. That is pretty priceless. You can use these simple tips anywhere from a dinner party to a business meeting. If you do, I bet people will increasingly listen to you, look up to you, respect you and even follow you.
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