Every good relationship ... at home ... or on the job ... is the result of hard work and nurturing. And while there are dozens of skills you can use to build or nurture your relationships, there are three bottom-line rules you absolutely must follow.
Rule #1: Be wary of self-centeredness.
Self-centeredness lies at the root of every deteriorating relationship with your coworkers, friends and family members. When you put yourself in the center of all your thoughts, you start to kill off your relationships.
To make things worse, physicians tell us that self-centeredness, self-love, self-pity and self-interest can easily turn into physical illness.
Rule #2: Give generous amounts of time.
The quality of your time will never make up for the lack of quantity. Good relationships with team members, coworkers, customers, friends and family members take time. Do you have a wonderful relationship just waiting for you ... but you don't have the time for it?
Rule #3: Listen to the other person.
It's one of the best ways to nurture a relationship and affirm caring. Every customer, every team member, every spouse and every friend wonders if you really care about them if you don't take time to listen to them.
One of the greatest gifts you can give another person is the gift of listening. In fact, nothing validates a person's value more than close, caring, undivided attention.
The cab driver who took the time to listen
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.
When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would honk once or twice, wait a minute and then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door.
I walked to the door and knocked. "Just a minute," answered a frail, elderly voice.
I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
The old lady asked, "Would you carry my bag out to the car?" I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.
She thanked me for my kindness. "It's nothing," I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated."
When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"
"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.
"Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice."
I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long."
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked. For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing.
Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she said, "I'm tired. Let's go now."
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building like a small convalescent home with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out as soon as we pulled up.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. "How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse.
"Nothing," I said.
"You have to make a living," she answered.
"There are other passengers," I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held on to me tightly.
"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."
I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us.
Great moments catch us ...
if we're willing to give generous amounts of time and really listen to the people in our lives. It's part of the rules that have to be followed if you're going to build positive relationships.
Select two relationships that need more of your time and more of your listening. And then write down three ways you will do each of those things in the next seven days.
Condensed and reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman's 'Tuesday Tip.' As a best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Zimmerman has worked with more than a million people, helping them become more effective communicators on and off the job. To receive a FREE, subscription to his 'Tuesday Tip' articles, go to http://www.DrZimmerman.com. Or contact him at 20550 Lake Ridge Drive, Prior Lake, MN 55372.