Let’s start with kindness. How kind should you be? As kind as you possibly can. Who should you be kind to? To everyone you come in contact with. From taxi drivers, to hotel clerks, to servers, to store clerks, to people on the street, in your office and at home. Be kind to everyone.
A kind word goes a long way. Perhaps somebody is having a bad day and you don’t know it. He or she is really feeling down and you offer a kind word. Maybe it’s just a friendly, “Hello, how are you today?” Maybe it’s just taking a minute or two to listen to what somebody has to say. But your few moments of attention could turn somebody’s day around. You might make them feel more worthwhile and important.
Be generous with your kindness. It will go a long way. People will remember, whether you know them or not. If you’re in a crowded restaurant and you’re especially nice to the waiter, he’ll remember you next time you come in and give you even better service.
When you give kindness, it’s not gone. It’s invested. It will come back to you two, five, 10, 100 times. Kindness is important in every aspect of your life, especially in building good relationships with others.
The next relationship-building essential is sensitivity. Allow yourself to be touched by the experience of others. Understand the plight of others. Open up your heart, mind and attention to the needs of others. Whether they’re people you work with or people you live with, you need to put yourself in other people’s shoes. Try to find out, if you can, what’s going on in their hearts.
If there’s a problem, you’ve got to be sensitive enough to ask some questions. One question might do it. Sometimes, however, you won’t even get through to the root of the problem until you’ve asked two or three questions.
People often won’t reveal the problem on the first question. You say, “How are you today? How are things?” He or she answers, “Well, everything’s OK.” You can tell by the way they say this that everything is not OK. Most of us don’t want to come right out and say what the real problem is, unless two criteria are met.
We need to feel as though we’re talking to someone we can trust.
We need to believe we’re talking to someone who really cares.
So it might just take a second, third or fourth question before the trust builds. Once the person finally understands that you do care, they’ll be willing to tell you what’s really going on. You’ll hear what’s really on their mind.
Asking questions up front can save so much time. Have you ever talked for an hour and then asked a question? You probably found out that you just wasted the previous hour. Learn to ask questions that will build the trust and communication between you and those you work with. Build trust and communication, and you’ll also build loyalty.
If you don’t know the other person very well, you will obviously need a longer questioning process. You need to take the time to find out what he’s all about. You must be sensitive to where he or she came from, what he or she has been through, and the tragedies in his or her life. If you really want to have an effect on people, start with where they are coming from. If they’re hurting, try to understand their pain. If somebody’s in trouble, you’ve got to start with the trouble.
Learn to express, not impress. If you want to touch somebody, express sincerity from the heart. When you try to impress, you build a gulf. By expressing, you build a bridge. People want to be able to relate their thoughts and philosophies and experiences to someone who will say, “Me, too. I know what you mean.” They don’t want your reaction to be, “So what?”
If you’re meeting someone for the first time, and you’re simply getting acquainted, here’s where you start: Find something you have in common. Find something you can both identify with.
When you’re talking with somebody who’s been stricken in the heart and you’ve had the same experience, you can talk about being stricken in the heart. Your words will mean something. They will have substance. They will have depth. If you start there, building the bridge with kindness and sensitivity, you have identification. You have the basis for a strong and fruitful relationship. And everyone will benefit.