Thursday, 31 October 2019

Why Relationships Matter in a Toxic World Swept by Negativity and Rats

Do you feel the rats are winning the rat race?

Written by Robyn T. Braley

Communication is what you say, how you say it and interpreting how it is received. Next comes connecting which leads to relationship. At that point, the focus shifts from you to the other person. 

Relationships are fast tracked when when there is clear authenticity and transparency. Each person demonstrates that they value each other and their opinions. That’s when the seeds of positive relationships are sown.

On the other side, relationships don't happen when we only engage people because we want something. Don’t you hate it when that happens? We’ve all had the call from the guy we haven’t heard from for 10 months. They always have a great opportunity … which in the end benefits them. 

Relationships form when there is a mutual exchange of ideas, time, respect and an offer of help even if it is not requested. Knowing what really matters is the starting point for quality relationships. 

On the job or in the home, when we begin to see others as friends rather than enemies, we begin to grow the seeds. 

We see others as friends and colleagues
Others are more than ‘tools’ used for crafting our own success 
We have a vested interest in our mutual journeys

Chronic Bad Behavior

Every day we are exposed to the worst examples of how not to build relationships. In fact, it is worse than the worst!  Constant negativity has created a toxic atmosphere reinforced by multiple replays on mainstream and social media.

How do you stay positive when there is so much negative energy in the air? Are you feeling you have been drawn so far into the swirling vortex of negativity that you have no choice but to follow along?

In Canada, we just finished a bitter federal election. Four out of five party leaders – Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh and Elizabeth May - spent the entire campaign assassinating the characters of each other. 

Robyn Braley analyzes Political Leaders Body Language 

with Dallas Flexhaug following Canadian Election Debate 

on Global TV

Our two biggest parties saw their popularity numbers go down due to voter disgust with the leaders behavior. That was unprecedented.

Everyday US President Donald Trump’s tweets messages showing he cares only about himself and what others think of him. When others let it be known he is not their favorite President, he attacks them mercilessly. He has never met most of his real or imagined opposition.
In the United Kingdom, there is a very real threat to the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Leaders Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and the others experience daily jabbing at each other about their stance on Brexit.

Billions of dollars are lost weekly due to market uncertainties. It may not be ‘United’ for long if the leaders don’t find a way to talk to each other to find a solution. 

Democracy at Risk

Local and national media ask me to analyze body language following Canadian Leader TV Debates. As I interpreted the messages the leaders were sending during the recent election, I got the sense they really didn’t like each other. 

How can you run a democracy without mutual respect and positive relationships between leaders? How can you discuss good ideas when you begin from the assumption that your opponents don’t have any?   

Does this Mean the Rats Winning?

Do you sometimes feel like the rats are winning the rat race? One way to guarantee a life without friends is to allow the rats to shape your attitudes and define what success means. At the end of the race, they’ll still be rats. 

Rats tend to step on the fingers of others on their way to the top. That doesn’t usually lead to positive relationships. 

Oh, they usually have hundreds of acquaintances! But most have few real relationships built through mutual trust, admiration and accountability. There is a good possibility they have sacrificed solid friendships with friends, family, neighbors or business colleagues on their way to the top.

Lonely Rats!

Remember the old axiom, “It’s lonely at the top.” I have news! It is. 
An acquaintance made many millions of dollars in the oil and gas industry. As he grew wealthier, he grew more distant.

His circle of friends shrunk as they tired of him forever reminding them of his millions by talking about the big house, new cars, the cottage on the lake, exotic trips or his latest business conquest. 

The final straw came when he broke trust with is wife and family by having an affair. Worse, he lied about it. 

The relationships he once cherished were gone. Things were never the same and never will be.

Going Rat Free

Don’t get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with money. Money and wealth can bring healthy choices – even big houses, nice cars and cool trips if you get my drift. It comes back to how you treat others and share your resources.

As I write this, I’m thinking about friends who have made millions through real estate, the service industry, investing, manufacturing, construction companies – and yes – the oil industry. But, to a person, they would say that their greatest source of wealth and meaning are the strong relationships they have built along their journey. 

They contribute to their communities through their Church, Mosque, Synagogue or service club. They coach kids sports and sit on not-for-profit boards. They are great to work with in business and the community.  

Each is known for kindness and compassion. Long ago – near the beginning of their journey to the top - they decided it wasn’t good enough just to survive the rat race. They choose to thrive through helping others.  

They built their families, marriages, friendships, careers, companies and communities through nurturing strong networks of relationships. Each made a life shaping decision not to participate in the rat race.

Healthy Relationships

It’s simple. Really! 

Our lives depend on interacting with others. We are social beings.

Endless studies show that positive relationships help people live longer, deal with stress better, develop healthier habits and generally build up resistance to colds, flus and other illnesses. In the end, healthy relationships make us feel more human. '

Starting Small

So, how can we do to fight back against negativity? Is there a way to tone down this toxic atmosphere?

I had a University Professor who had a saying that has helped me. When attacking a complex problem, he’d say, “Begin from where you are!” 

In other words, start small and do something that’s easy to do! In this case, start giving away smiles. 

The Danish comic Victor Borge is credited with saying, ‘The closest distance between two hearts is a smile.’
A smile makes you more attractive to others
When you smile, you cause others to smile back
A smile invites eye contact
A smile causes you to pull your shoulders back opening airwaves
Breathing in causes you to inject more oxygen into your blood stream
Endorphin activity is triggered making you feel better 

Smiling, and acknowledging the humanity of other people, will make THEM feel better. Need more? YOU will feel better as well. 

Being Human

I do something few others do. When I finish eating at a shopping mall food court, I take my tray to the attendant handling the garbage. I say hello and ask them how their day is going. 

Sometimes they act shocked, not sure how to respond. But when I smile, they smile back, and we exchange pleasantries. 

Why are they shocked? People seldom connect with them as humans. They may work through an entire day without a single person making eye contact and treating them as unique people. 

People see them, but they don’t see them. They are lost in a sea of invisible faces just waiting for someone to acknowledge them. 

A Smile May be All They Need

I often smile and make a comment to homeless people as I pass them on the street. Why? 
I’ve produced several videos for organizations working with the homeless, recovering addicts and sex workers. I’ve interviewed … 

A youth pastor
A top ad agency designer
Construction workers 
Police officers. 
A famous visual artist who’s’ paintings sold for thousands of dollars

Each had a story to tell about their journey into the dark pit of addiction and how the clawed their way back. All were also moms and dads, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters with their own unique story. Each had a story about someone who reached out and helped them reclaim their lives
The kindness shown through a simple smile acknowledging their humanity and worth could make all the difference. Smiles and kindness may be their bridge back to healthy living and productive lives.  

A Place for Relationships 

What does this mean for the workplace? If you suddenly start smiling when you seldom smile awkward questions may be asked about your mental stability

If that’s the case, go slow. Start with half smiles, but don’t smirk! 

Kindness can be incrementally introduced. As your team develops stronger relationships, they will work better together. They will develop loyalty to each other and the company. 

As you work collaboratively, the people around your help make better decisions. You help them as well. When we lift each other up, everybody wins.

Relationship Funnels

Marketers explain building customer relationships is like pulling them through a 5 step funnel.

You get to KNOW a person 
As you get to know them, you begin to LIKE them
As you find more to like, you develop TRUST
As trust deepens, you feel they will keep their word which leads to ENGAGEMENT
Deeper engagement leads to CLOSING THE LOOP or making the sale. 
It’s called relationship marketing. As you trust each other, conversations lead to some form or transaction. It may be a sale, a second meeting, a request for a proposal, or permission to keep in touch. 

The model also works for retail sales. With big box grocery stores, you trust the grocery store to sell you the same quality of cheese that you bought last time. Strong brands understand that high trust relationships matter.

Being the Real Deal

Relevance - both parties share common values and interests 
Authenticity - being the real deal
Transparency – letting the inner you shine through  
Consistency - doing the good things you do time after time

Relationship Influencers

1. Age – Millennials see things differently than boomers
2. Gender – Men think differently than women.
3. Geographic origin – Culture influences how you relate to others
4. Accent, dialect – You may speak the same language but have different interpretations or levels of understanding     
5. Religion – Understanding similarities and sensitivities
6. Personality type – Otters, beavers and lions
7. Level of authority – Who’s the boss of me?
8. Common interests – Bridge building

Age Barriers

If you’re the youngest member of the staff and work in the warehouse, what would you possibly have in common with the owner who is 70 and has a big office on the top floor? 

It might be hockey, football, baseball, collecting stamps, antique cars or donuts. Whatever it is, a comment about last nights game or the car show you attended may provide the perfect conversation starter that can lead to others. 

My daughter works for a broadcasting company that has 3 radio stations in one complex. Each Thursday is donuts day. One of the managers is assigned the job of bringing in a large flat of donuts. 

If they are late, staff start asking questions about the donuts. Where are they? Why aren’t they here? When will they come?  
Donuts have the power to reach across age, management and creative boundaries. Everyone loves donuts. 

Language Barriers

Common interests may also be a relationship starter when you can’t understand the dialect. I sat beside a fellow grandfather at our grandson’s hockey game. He lives in Newfoundland and visits his grandchildren in Alberta once a year.

At first, I could barely understand him due to his marked accent. As we enjoyed the game, I began to listen more carefully and speak slower. Soon we had a great conversation going as we watched the kids.  

Now, he has no problem being understood by the neighborhood kids. There’s a tradition that’s followed every time he visits. 

He takes his grandchildren and 10 of their friends to McDonalds for hamburgers and ice cream. McDonalds has long been known foster understanding across language barriers.

Religious Differences

In a diverse workforce, there are religious differences. Our city hosts a mostly Christian Leadership Prayer Breakfast every fall. About 900 business, church, political and political leaders come together to honor elected officials and first responders.

Our Mayor, His Worship Naheed Nenshi, is an Ismaili Muslim. The first year's event was scheduled 2 days after he was elected. Organizers were concerned that he might not attend, or if he did, extremists might show up with anti-Muslim signs and to shout angry slogans.

I sat beside a PR colleague who had played a major role in his being elected. He shared that Mayor Nenshi was also nervous because he had no idea what to expect.  

The organizers overlooked one little menu detail. Bacon! 

Mayor Nenshi soon put everyone at ease. At the beginning of his talk he said, “I find it interesting that you served a Muslim Mayer bacon!”

That broke the ice. His comment was greeted with resounding applause and gales of laughter. He is now ending his second term and every year reminds us about the bacon. 

After that he focused on the common interests of serving the poor, feeding the hungry, community service and making our city a better place to live and work. 

Personality Differences

You may feel there are those in your home or office who don’t have one! A personality, that is. 

Understanding personality differences will guide you in building deeper relationships. The best explanation I’ve ever had was from a pastor who laid fox, bear, lion, otter, owl, beaver and ant hand puppets on a table on stage and used them to explain personality types.  

For a deeper explanation, click here. Truity's Personality and Careers Blog explains it much better than I can. 

Leveraging Our Differences

If you let it, diversity can bring great joy. I base that on the great happiness excellent Chinese, Indian, African, Mexican, Nepalese, Brazilian, Jamaican, Vietnamese, Italian, Canadian and other types of restaurants in our city bring me.  
While a new relationship may begin over a meal, reaching across cultural and ethnic differences is enriching. It starts by understand that people of Chinese descent who emigrated from Beijing may have a different perspective than those from Vietnam, Hong Kong or Vancouver, BC.  

Hispanic people in Los Angeles or Vancouver think and speak differently than those in Toronto or New York. Each filters communication through their own unique culture.
While interesting stories and different perspectives are two benefits, there is also a business case. 

If your company is set to launch internationally, I’ll bet you know a colleague, employee, college buddy, neighbor, the parent of a kid who plays on your kids sports team who has come from the region where you want to do business.

You will learn more about local culture and opportunities in your target region during a 30-minute chat at a Starbucks than you will from hours of online research or wading through government programs.  

Deepening Relationships

Building relationships takes work. Fighting back against our present toxic negativity by showing kindness and respect will lead to a more human society. When you start, others will join in and pass it on. 

What if your kindness fails to bring significant change? You can change the way you respond or interact with it. The bottom line is to never let the rats suck you into their race!

Relationship Builders

1. I love hearing your ideas
2. You’re a great friend
3. What can I do differently?
4. I think you know my friend
5. What can I do to help?
6. I fully trust your judgment
7. I couldn’t have done this without you
8. Thank you so much
9. I’m sorry. May we start again?
10. You always inspire me
11. Like you, I care about this 
12. I understand how you feel
13. I’m so proud of you. I wanted to tell you in case no one has
14. Perfect. That’s exactly what I thought
15. I like that idea
16. You’re Badass! In a good way

Relationship Killers

1. We've never done it that way before
2. It’s not in the budget
3. We’re just not ready
4. I’m too busy
5. What if we try and fail?
6. What will head office say?
7. What will the others say?
8. We don’t have the expertise
9. Wait until things get better
10. Interesting, but let’s think about it
11. Let’s form a committee

What do you Think?


Please give me your feedback below. I'd love to know what you think! 

Robyn T. Braley is a brand specialist, writer, and speaker. He is also a media commentator and Rotarian. Robyn is the President of UniMark Creative which does website design, video production, media services (editorial and advertising), and graphic design. He speaks at business conferences and also blogs about branding. 

Follow on Twitter: @RobynTBraley 

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