WELCOME TO THE RELATIONSHIP ECONOMY
Today's illiterate are those who have an inability to truly make a deep connection with others.
Since I was old enough to remember, my life's obsession was to play shortstop for the Cleveland Indians. I worked at it. I was committed and passionate, and nothing was going to stop me. Except for maybe the lack of a little talent or, in my case, the lack of a lot of talent. No matter how hard I worked, there was absolutely no way I was ever going to play in the big leagues. There are certain genetic skills we are either born with or not. And if not, there is not much we can do about it. There are skills we can develop, however, and of all these, there is one that when mastered will, without question, have the biggest impact on us personally and professionally.
That skill is the ability to build an instant connection with others. This is way more than a mere communications skill. It is the ability to communicate with a purpose—to build your community at every stage of your life. Building a relationship with someone else, whether an acquaintance, friend, customer, coworker, or a total stranger, is far and away the most important skill every human being should be taught at an early age and then should hone throughout life. This skill should be taught at home, in school from pre-kindergarten to graduate school, and, of course, in business. Unfortunately it is rarely taught in any formal way.
THE LOST ART OF BUILDING RAPPORT
Today we are living in the "digital disruption era." Technology has provided us with unprecedented advances, information, knowledge, instant access, and entertainment. We have computers, mobile phones, tablets, the internet, social media, apps, and artificial intelligence—assistants like Siri and Alexa, chatbots, virtual concierges, facial recognition, and self-driving cars.
However, as convenient as these advances make our lives, they also have changed the way we communicate, behave, and think and have led to a dramatic decline in our people skills. As a society we are now relationship disadvantaged. We no longer become curious about others or eager to engage in conversations. The younger generation primarily communicates electronically, and the explosion of ecommerce means we go out less and less. In business, multi-channel communication has dramatically reduced phone calls to companies; customers can get answers and place orders via email, on websites, or through social media channels.
The pendulum has swung over to high tech and low touch. Consequently we long for a sense of community, belonging, and purpose, a world in which people actually know our name, what we do, what is important to us, and have trust in one another. Today trust is an endangered value. Those who understand that human touch is the most important part of any experience—especially a great customer experience—will flourish. Personally and professionally, success is increasingly about creating and building human connections.
THE BENEFITS OF STRONG CONNECTIONS
When you have the ability to make an instant connection, get people to instantly like you, make them feel comfortable, and fully develop relationships of all kinds, you are likely to have more fulfillment and success. I cannot think of anything that will give you a bigger advantage in all aspects of your life—that includes higher self-esteem, a larger network, greater support system, and more resources. Your personal and professional life will be filled with an abundance of people who think highly of you, love you, and have your back.
People who have key relationships and positive influences in their life are usually less stressed because they have someone they can talk to, vent to, and confide in when life gets tough. And it is just as rewarding to be a positive influencer for others—to have others rely on you.
Lives can be changed for the better because the right friendships can make a difference in someone's life at a critical point. In an interview with Tom Bilyeu on his series Impact Theory, author Simon Sinek said, "Those relationships that we foster over the course of a lifetime...will oftentimes save your life. They will save you from depression. They will save you from giving up, they will save you from any matter of negative feelings about your capabilities, your own future, when someone just says I love you and I will follow you no matter what."
People with strong relationships have a greater potential for more professional success, are less impacted by corporate politics, laugh more, and experience less depression. Research has shown that social engagement and meaningful relationships are associated with living a longer life and improving your overall health. The flip side is also true: Julianne Holt-Lunstad, the lead author of a study that reviewed and analyzed research in this area, noted, "A lack of social relationships was equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day."