No matter what conflicts arise, I try to build or maintain relationships as a primary goal. Yesterday on my way to the airport, I had to stop at the ATM at my neighborhood TD Bank. Now, I always leave plenty of time (try to reduce the amount of unnecessary conflict), but still there is a ticking clock. I do my transaction to get my cash and the machine instructs me to take my card in order to release my money. All that happens is a clicking sound, but no card is released, which also means no cash. I wait a couple seconds and then the machine shuts down and says it is OUT OF ORDER. And the bank does not open for another half hour!!
I look in the window and mouth to the security officer inside… Help! Next thing I know, Fernando, the manager who has known me by my full name for all the 8 years I have been banking there, comes to the glass. He cannot hear me, but he sees my distress. So, he opens the bank a half hour early for me. He handles the withdrawal, makes sure my account is secure and issues me a new card and off I go to the airport (after thanking him profusely, of course).
Setting ourselves up to resolve conflict easier is all about relationships and communication. Now, I know that there can be discomfort in both for folks, but frankly whatever role we play in life – parents, leaders, lovers etc., we need to build these muscles. I am going to make it easier to do that by sharing 3 things I do that are so simple you can start using them today.
1. Harness the Power of Names
Whenever you engage with someone, ask them their name. We interact with so many people daily and some of them end up being people we see regularly. The most powerful attention-getter we have is calling someone by their name. Many people in the service field make it easy for us by either telling us their name up front or wearing a name tag. So, make sure you repeat it and keep using it throughout the interaction.
We all answer to our name, it humanizes us and begins to create relationships. When you see them again, if you have forgotten it, then ask again with the goal of continuing to build on each interaction. If you forget to ask their name upfront, get it at the end and say something like, “Oh my goodness. I forgot to ask your name.” This has melted many hearts in my interactions all over the world. By the way, it works when you are on the phone with someone too.
I’ve built relationships with far more IRS agents than I ever expected to and believe me it has helped me in resolving those nasty money issues. I’m just saying… This is one powerful conflict prevention and resolution tool and plus, it widens your relationship circle.
2. Plan Ahead for Relationship-Building Time
Look at your day’s schedule and identify where you will be around other people. Maybe you will have to Uber or Lyft today, maybe you have an appointment or are taking the kids somewhere or have a meeting in another office. Plan for 3 – 5 minutes of relationship time. I mean really put it on your calendar. This is a time to put away your phone and engage in a conversation designed to find out about this person you are interacting with. Call them by name, notice something about them that you can make a sincere and positive comment about. If you know their time with you is short, respect it and thank them for taking the time to chat a bit with you and make sure you call them by name again.
If you ask the standard question of “how are you,” then be genuine about it and care about their answer and pursue it further. “Really, tell me more about that…” or “Oh, everybody says they’re fine, but are you really?” Too many of us miss opportunities for relationship-building with people who we see as service people (the receptionist, the Uber driver, the assistant to that important person we believe can do something for us or the janitor or person responsible for keeping our neighborhood park clean). When conflict happens, knowing these folks can often be the first step in getting it resolved.
3. Be Intentional About Your Loyalty
Find a place to be loyal to and make that a place of building relationships. The bank story I told you is a place of intentional loyalty for me. I watched them build that bank in my neighborhood and was one of the first people through those doors when they opened. I intentionally do my business there and have made it my business to go in and build relationships.
It doesn’t mean that there haven’t been times when I have been in conflict or unhappy with someone there, but it does mean that when conflict has happened, everyone in the place works hard to resolve it with me. It means we call each other by name and they are happy to see me coming. It means that I have brought my family there to do business and introduce them around and I ask about their families, dreams and challenges and it is all intentional.
I want to know and care about them and I want them to know and care about me. When people no longer work there, I miss them and inquire about them. When people get promotions, I celebrate them. So, choose places to be loyal with the intention of building relationships not just doing business or taking the kids to a nice park.
My first lessons in relationships, relationships, relationships came from my dad, David Hurdle aka Cool Dave. He knew everyone from all walks of life and he resolved conflicts, was blessed with favors and smiled a lot because of it. He showed me their power long before I entered the conflict resolution field and it has served me well.
Now it is your turn to harness their power.