Let’s start with a fact. Humans are great at building walls, especially the emotional kind that keep people out. What goes unnoticed is that there are two sides to wall-building. If we build that wall they won’t get close enough to hurt us. The other truth is that they won’t come close enough to help us.
Understanding this is crucial to building authentic networks. One of the keys to building relationships is first understanding that people build barriers around themselves. The walls vary from person to person, but they are essentially there to prohibit access and to ensure protection. In reality…
Protection Dilutes Connection.
It dilutes our ability to network. The more people trust you, the more they will begin to let you in. This is true both professionally and personally.
How can these barriers be penetrated? One of the best metaphors I’ve heard for building relationships is to find the loose brick in the wall.
Every wall has a loose brick. When interacting with others be alert and look for the loose brick. That’s the place you gain entrance into their lives. The loose bricks are their interests, their dreams, their strengths and skills. It includes their fears, their wounds, their betrayals and disappointments.
The loose brick is about them, not you. You might hit on an experience that wowed them or one that wounded them. Discover that loose brick and you discover an entrance. Every human life has an entrance that leads to their heart.
So how does it work? Here are 5 keys to remember:
- Look for the loose bricks. What special interests do your associates have, and how could this increase opportunities to deepen your connection?
- The truth about loose bricks applies to older and younger adults. The brick might be different, but the principle is the same. Bypass any defensive reaction and go to the loose brick. It will change the conversation, and as a result, the relationship.
- You gain insight on their interests and experiences. That becomes valuable information that can be used at a later date. It can be a kind gesture or note regarding something that connects you with what interests them. It could be in the form of an article that highlights that interest or even an appropriate gift.
- Match the depth of the dialogue to the context. Don’t just jump to business jargon. Deeper connections come from finding common ground that’s not work related.
- Diffuse controversial or heated topics by saying, “Well, that’s one issue we’re not going to solve tonight.” Or say, “I certainly understand your perspective,” minus the “but” that’s sitting on the end of your tongue. You don’t win points by always being right. Leaders don’t have to have the last word. Sometimes the middle word is best.
The level of connection will differ with each relationship. Your professional contacts must remain professional. But they can also be more personal. So look for the loose bricks, because personal connections are stronger than professional connections.
Here are a few bonus questions to help find those loose bricks. Ask…
- What’s your connection to the event? This can lead to a series of questions.
- What keeps you busy when you are not at events like this or at work? They will now be revealing a few of their interests and passions.
- Are you getting away for the summer? This goes to family and special interests.
- Are you involved with any charities? This might lead them to share what they value.
- How did you come to be in your line of work? This could get very interesting as they revisit their story. You will get a lot of clues as to what makes them tic.
Keep an eye out for the loose bricks.