We meet many people throughout our lives through family, work, and community. Not all encounters are equal. Some people come and go with little impact. Others pass by but leave a lasting impression. Some encounters last a lifetime. What determines which one prevails?
Does length of time with an individual matter? What about commonality of work or shared interests? Does status have an impact, like formal title or role? What about proximity or frequency of encounters?
For each attribute, I’m sure you can think of a person in each category. For example, I’ve had several managers in my career. Thinking back, different ones fall into each category. Some have had little to no impact on my life today. Others were influential in a particular lesson or skill helping me to move forward. A rare few are individuals I maintain meaningful relationships to this day. So, what influences the outcome?
It’s all about the strength of the connection. The stronger the connection, the longer that relationship stays intact. Strength correlates to the stability of the foundation. We all know that a house built on rock has a greater chance of long-term survival than one built on sand. Relationships built on solid ground are the ones that thrive.
Circumstances may change, but these passing moments won’t allow your foundation to be rocked. If you lead with who you are, the definition of your mind, heart, and character – your genuine care for connection will result in strong, lasting relationships.
The other critical element is a regard for one another. This transcends the cordial “Hi, how are you?” Caring about another, in combination with shared values, influences the way you interact. The relationship is approached and cared for in a meaningful way through respect, being present and available, and genuine interest. Those key factors nurture a lasting relationship that enriches the lives of both parties.
Oftentimes, circumstances can blur the lines. We begin to believe results (i.e., what people do or the role they’re in, rather than who they are) define the importance of the relationship. A person who is in a position of influence or achieving certain outcomes – test results, accolades, financial worth – may prompt you to build a relationship on status alone. Basing connections on what someone does (built on sand) does not, itself, provide the recipe for an important or lasting connection.
It doesn’t mean you can’t build great relationships with individuals who achieve the results or status desired. It just means you have to dig deeper. You must understand the rock beneath the surface to ensure stability of the relationship. Without it, a change in circumstance may result in a relationship that fades away.
What you do often leads to new connections. Embrace each one but look deeper. Look beyond the surface to discover who people are. That is the real secret to thriving relationships that matter.