Relationships are work. In our private lives, this mantra is a given. But what about relationships at work? For some of us, casual friendships with colleagues come easily. We share mutual interests and similar backgrounds. We go out when the day is done and discuss our workplace challenges over drinks or pasta. Often these work relationships are a big reason we stay with a company. In one study, 70 percent of respondents said having friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life. Half of them felt connected to their company because they had a best friend at work.
Yet sometimes relationships that are the hardest to develop become the most valuable. These are the connections forged with supervisors or with co-workers from another department. They can even be relationships with an employee of a different company, like an outside supplier. Of course, for many people work is just about work. They don’t devote much time to developing more connected relationships there. That’s too bad. Because studies show that by not having those meaningful connections, you’re leaving opportunity on the table. In fact, a study by Harvard University showed that 85% of job success is partly from having well-honed people skills. So how do you nurture professional relationship building skills?
Are you naturally empathic? If you aren’t, that’s okay. There are ways to overcome a lack of empathy and learn how to put yourself in someone else’s If you have a hard time putting yourself in someone else’s Ferragmos, the next time someone discusses an ongoing challenge, try to visualize yourself in a similar situation. The exercise isn’t designed so you can deliver unsolicited advice, but rather a way of understanding why someone else might be having difficulty with a deadline or a navigating a work crisis.
Practice Mindful Listening.
This is one of the most beneficial soft skills you can develop. Being mindful means staying grounded in the present. It means being clear-headed and focused. To be a mindful listener, the goal is to focus on the speaker. If you are generally thinking of what you will say next when another person is talking, work on being fully present. It can help to take a quiet minute or two before a meeting. Then, when you are with another person, focus on what they are saying. Gaining a reputation as a good listener can help you nurture your professional relationship building skills. When the other person finishes speaking, instead of jumping in with your own opinions, paraphrase what was just said. Being a mindful listener will help you gain a reputation as someone who can be trusted.
Have A Clear Purpose
Knowing exactly what you want to get out of a relationship before pursuing it may seem Machiavellian but when it comes to nurturing your professional relationship building skills, it can actually serve as a guidepost and a way to overcome obstacles in the future. The key is being able to discuss and establish a reason for the relationship and its intent. This shared understanding will help both of you navigate any challenges that happen in the future.
Accept that it Won’t Be Easy
This goes back to what I said earlier. There will be times when in order for your work relationship to work, you’ll have to do the work. Accepting this early on will make it easier to stick with it when the going gets tough. Overcoming an obstacle together is an awesome shared experience that can strengthen rather than weaken your connections.
Remember, more opportunities come from relationships. So start building the ones at work today!
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