Key Ingredients of Every Successful Relationship

9 minute read

Communication builds trust. Trust in return improves communication. Round and round it goes, always on different levels. Communication/trust matrix sits behind every prosperous and deep relationship and is also a success determinator in our daily lives, more than we can imagine.

The Conundrum

Trust. A word that is so often used in an ordinary conversation but a concept that is rarely put to good use.

Everything is happening so fast and is just a few click(s) away. Instant gratification, instant communication, instant love, instant relationship, instant coffee… damn. Everything is in some kind of a rush. It is counterproductive to judge. How can one tell what will be the positive and negative effects of that rush in the far future?

However, there is one thing we can all agree on. Indeed, we live in challenging times. Layers of makeup are stopping our natural given being to shine through. The ability of a person to observe and become aware instantly shines light into the darkness.

The Way Out of The Conundrum

The goal of this article is to set a solid foundation in how to build long lasting and truthful relationships. Long lasting and truthful relationships have their roots in trust. In order to build trust, we need to communicate.

Communication That Builds Trust

But, does every kind of communication build trust?

I learned that only truthful, fact-based and honest communication can have a healing, curative effect. People are ready to hear the truth if you care and manage not to hurt them or make them feel bad about themselves. Instead, help people grow and they will never forget that.

This occurred to me for the first time while I was leading a team of seven in an office of 120+ people. In the first two quarters, each structure, from operations, middle management all the way to executive board, suffered in communication/trust big time. So called storming phase according to Tuckman’s stages of group development. People felt unappreciated, they were demotivated and overall unhappy. The first thing I did, was to talk to each and every team, making sure that we all stand for the same vision and that we all want good for each other individually and as one team. The second task was to hear real problems and individual voices. We as EB have addressed those problems as our top priority. As soon as we have taken care of our people, they felt the responsibility to take care of the business.

It is a no brainer that once the problems were acknowledged and recognized as a truth, the change was on the horizon and it was unstoppable.

Personally, what better starting point to grow would you want for yourself than to start with the truth and to pivot from there? It doesn’t matter if you look at it from an individual’s perspective or an organizational point of view. Just start with the truth – whatever the truth may be. You always have a choice. Just make sure you are conscious of making one.

Red or blue?

If you have any kind of problem with your peer, team leader or a team member, have patience; muscle through the storm and invite that person for coffee. Go there with your full attention to listening and understanding the other side bluntly. No freaking mobile phones on the table. No distractions. That is how you build the relationship. That is how you start.

Try the following exercise.

When having a one on one conversation with a friend, measure how many seconds you can restrain yourself from not interrupting or wanting to interrupt your friend with your own talking points, experiences or adding your conclusions to the topic. Also, how many times you wandered away from what your interlocutor is talking about. In other words, being captured in your own thoughts.

So basically, ask yourself how long you can survive being an active listener, trying to avoid being in your own thoughts and interrupting. You can ask questions just for the sake of clarifying what you don’t understand.

You will be impressed by how many times your mind will want to wander away or interrupt just to talk about yourself and your personal feelings and experiences about the topic that’s been presented by your friend.

Try to avoid being judgmental and hard on yourself, too. Rather note down every time when your mind wanders or wishes to interrupt. The change will start occurring every time you become aware of your thoughts and emotions. We should all be grateful to our self-consciousness – or the ability to think about our own thoughts (meta thought).

In the beginning, you will slowly start to become aware that what you hear and observe is being analysed through your own experiences and worldviews. Simply by being ahead of the thought or by acknowledging it when it happens, you will start seeing the difference.

Once, I was holding a workshop. I had complete strangers in the audience and when I reached an atmosphere of comfort, I asked them to form pairs. Person A had to ask Person B to talk about their life, plans, experiences. As you can imagine, the people whose turn it was to talk first were excited to talk mostly about themselves. As were the listeners, it’s just that their part of the task was to listen.

The results showed that in more than 90% of the cases it was really difficult for the listeners to keep quiet for several minutes without interrupting or wandering away. It was hard for them not to judge and take the story for what it is and as it is from speakers’ perspective. It was hard maintaining the focus.

This exercise and the whole concept of being present is well covered in a book written by Chade-Meng Tan, called, “Search inside yourself”.1 Chade-Meng Tan paints an extremely practical portrait of skills high in demand in any environment business or personal.

You can pick up some good concepts from the following YT video.

Communication Takeaway

There are a few more points to take away before we continue to the second part of the formula in building the foundation of any relationship.

  • Communication is important and it can always be improved, all types of communication. Remember that listening is part of the communication, too.
  • Communication that will build the foundation for a long lasting relationship is the one that is based on truth, facts and honesty and doesn’t come out of the screen. Spend some quality time with people, free from any distraction.
  • Never attack another person’s feelings or make them feel bad about themselves. It just doesn’t help anyone and it turns your interlocutor defensive. Instead, exercise being constructive, with no hidden agendas. Practice compassion and understanding. Practice ego suspension and validating human beings unconditionally and non-judgmentally for who they are.

Trust as The Highest Form of Human Motivation

Stephen R. Covey once said that “Trust is the highest form of human motivation”.2 I cannot agree more with Dr Covey. If you think about it, what can you accomplish without trust? Without having trust in yourself, a family member, a friend, your team.

Like almost anything stable and healthy, it also takes a good portion of your life to build a trustworthy relationship and just a few unconscious moves here and there to lose it. Solid, experienced character won’t even allow those maneuvers. But you have to build it first, by the method of trial and error.

Let us think, for a few seconds, about trust as a key monete in a relationship bank. The relationship is a bank where you deposit and withdraw trust. Sometimes you deposit and sometimes you withdraw but overall there is some solid balance in that relationship and constant compound growth over the years brings profound smiles.

Heading back to your relationships, if you continuously ask your team to do something for you with no resources offered, no vision shared, no learning points but constant “no questions asked” type of tasks, your relationship account will soon crash down, carrying it’s all stakeholders. You will have a relationship market crash.

The same goes for a friend you call for some favours, repeatedly. Even you feel bad about it, right? “Hey it’s me again and yes, once again I need something”. It just doesn’t feel right.

Opposite happens if you have a deep and genuine relationship with your team, friend, family member. Once you are in a real trouble you can count on them without even explaining. You can be like: “Hey guys something urgent happened. I need you to do this. It is important to me. I will tell you all about it later.”.

Tomorrow, when you have time and space and the crisis is gone, take your crew out for a few pints or a nice cup of coffee and explain in greater detail what has happened and how they served a greater purpose without even knowing it.

Show off with your gratitude, not bossy attitude.

Trust Takeaway

  • In order to build a solid relationship account with your family members, friends, and teammates, you need to go back and forth from communication to trust. It takes patience and time. Just as any trust based well-chosen investment, it pays off in the long run.
  • Be curious and learn. The way I see it, being curious about other people equals to being curious about yourself. Besides, stop taking yourself so damn serious and start learning. Constant curiosity and learning will help in building trust foundation.
  • Instead of comparing yourself to other people and being competitive against them, compete with yourself and focus on the tasks in front of you.
  • Exercise the “What can I do for you?” attitude daily. It will boost your self-trust and launch some good vibes into the ether. We all just want to be useful and appreciated for who we are.

Final Points

When you feel like you’re trapped inside your own mind, all it takes is communicating that little something with your family, friends, colleagues, and sometimes even complete strangers. The same goes when having a conflict situation with your closest ones or people you spend the most time with. Go ahead, talk to them. Communicate. Bits of vulnerability every now and then haven’t killed anyone. In fact, they’re the ones that build trust – that hidden piece of every relationship puzzle.

How do you build relationships?

Footnotes

  1. Author: Chade-Meng Tan, Book: Search Inside Yourself.
  2. Author: Stephen R. Covey, Source: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 1990 edition, 178 pg.
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