It only took an umbrella
I had been having a tense relationship with a colleague for some time. It was nothing personal but I felt she was just “sticking to the book” during her communication with me. When I requested for something, she would throw the rule book at me telling me why it could not be done. It was frustrating that I was only having “rules based” conversations with her and I started avoiding her.
Then one day, I stepped out of the office during lunch without an umbrella. As I was walking along an unsheltered walkway, I saw her approaching me from the opposite direction. “Looks like it might rain,” she said. “You’re not carrying an umbrella. Here, have mine,” she offered. I was taken aback by her generosity and immediately all the tension I felt about our relationship dissipated.
A single act of thoughtfulness had undone months of grudging sentiments. I felt like a tight knot in our relationship had loosened. Now I was more willing to listen to her point of view and engage her in a dialogue at work.
How many times are we blind sided by our perceptions of others? Such that it clouds our judgement and prevents us from having a meaningful conversation with them. Staying in the “I” mode is comfortable for us but prevents us from connecting with others. Here are some tips on connecting with others at every conversation.
1) Look in their eyes. Looking at people in their eyes is a respectful acknowledgement that you “see” them and are present to listen to them. Just having that moment of stillness can let the other person see that you are genuinely interested in them.
2) Think of connecting and you will. This is based on the principle of inevitability that if you believe you can connect with someone, you will undoubtedly find that connection.
3) It is not always about the other person, it is also about you. Think about what you got out of the conversation. Did it help you to move forward in your conversational skills? Or did it help you have a better awareness of yourself?
Be on the lookout for opportunities to have conversations with people – especially those you have an uncomfortable relationship with. It helps us to get over our blind spots and focuses our attention on what is critical. Be on the one offering the umbrella:)