Sunday, November 21, 2010

Building Meaningful Relationships

It's not what you know, but who you know...the realities of life. It's not a bad thing. For me, it is one of the hardest. My conversations with people usually go this way:

            "Hi, how are you doing?" I ask as someone I recognize approaches me. I wish I could remember her name.
            "Fine, how are you?" she asks and we shake hands.

            "Great! Thanks," I say, racking my brain on the next question. Should I ask her what's she doing here? No, that sounds rude. Should I ask who she's here with? No, she'd probably think I'm stalking her. Or I probably won't know the person anyway. And then my brain goes numb. The awkward silence has come and gone as she finally says, "Well, I'll see you around."

And that, in a nutshell, is my skills in building relationships. I just can't seem to get past the initial greeting.

 I amnut-case.

But...I also realize the importance of creating meaningful relationships. It's not important to know everyone's life story, but you should have a selected few that goes beyond Hi, how are you.  It is a skill I admire in people. My sister has it in spades and I love watching her in action. She asks people the questions I could only muster in my head. And they respond! 

It is important to create meaningful relationships because it is then we share who we are, and in return, we get to really know people-- not only a face, a name or a profession-- but on a deeper level.  

I continue to work on it and I am getting better. With the holidays around the corner, this is a great opportunity to go out and develop my skill, to offer a kind word to a stranger, carry a conversation with neighbors and co-workers.

How do you engage with people?


  1. I am a medical social worker by trade and have worked in Hospice and many different aspects of "engagement". I know you are addressing developing relationships which I see as a sort of a "brewing" process over time but when it comes to initial engagements, I have learned to project warmth, a smile, a welcome and eye contact (if that is culturally ok). When I ask someone how they are, I mean it and it is sensed. If they have family, I ask about that but I think my profession calls for going beyond ordinary boundaries so I have to watch out for the not pry, not assess, etc. Ah, balance, balance but meaningful relationships take time, a sort of waltz, learning the steps with your friend. Great question.

  2. I suppose I'm fortunate in that I work at an animal hosp and even if I don't remember their name I usually remember their pet's names, which means I can always ask them how Fluffy is doing. Sadly, that's about as far as I get since I live in this really small town and seldom go anywhere.

    Thank god for the internet!

  3. I usually let people approach me, but when I do the approaching, I start with something funny. Jokes are my safety blanket :D Only problem is if they don't think I'm funny, then I'm screwed.

    Building relationships is tough, though. Took me a loooong time to open up, so don't rush it if you don't feel comfortable. But trust me, it'll get easier the more you put yourself out there, baby steps at a time.

  4. TOTALLY and SHAMELESSLY stealing/adapting your dialog for my book. lol. My MC has a bit of a problem forming relationships, seeing as, for most of her life, she was the freaky chick who could make crap move with her mind.

    I am exactly like this myself. Terrible at remembering names and never sure what to say when I greet people. I've found asking people about THEIR lives works. Isn't everyone's favorite subject of conversation themselves?

  5. @ Basque-Land: yes Balance! I agree. Thanks for commenting.

    @ Marcy: LOL. Thanks for sharing. I would love to live in a small town. Maybe.

    @Amparo: Jokes? I'd probably be the only one laughing. And did I mention that I often snort when I laugh. LOL. I do have to put myself outthere. Thanks for your comment!

    @Kyle: glad I can help with your writing. LOL. Real-life does mesh in with fiction. It's why I write! Good pointer about asking people to share about themselves. I gotta get some note cards.


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