Jul 16, 2015

Relationships – Are They More Than Skills?

Relationships are more than Skills

Relationships are more than Skills

In several meetings I’ve attended recently, the discussion of learning relationship skills has come up as a major topic. I listen with great interest as people give their thoughts on learning this set of skills. Why? Because relationships are one of the most critical parts of business, friendships, families, and a critical part of life. I believe, and neuroscience supports, that there is an “underlying element” that bonds every person on earth together. You can choose to believe what that underlying element is to you. It’s not important what you call it. What is important is that it has been scientifically proven to exist and it is self-evident in our lives every day.

So, what are some of Relationship Skills that people can acquire?
Here’s what I found doing a brief search on Relationship Skills Training courses that companies offer for business and families: Empathy, Emotional Validation, Consideration and Civility, Awareness of your emotions, Introspection, Communication, Negotiation and Collaboration, Healthy Boundaries, Compassion, Empathy, Resilience, Joy, Gratitude, Optimism, and Acceptance.

On a site that caters only to corporations, I found these additional skills and comments about them:
Partnering Roles
Monitor your journey from expert-for-hire to trusted adviser by identifying your current level of partnership and growing the relationship through dimensions of expertise, process and people.

Sources of Influence
Measure your formal and informal sources of influence: positional, political, knowledge, relationship, and personal power … and leverage your client’s sources for win-win arrangements.

In the discussions I heard, and in the advertisements for training that I read, a common thread ran through. Relationship Skills are considered something that you do to another person. For instance, look at the descriptions of “Partnering Roles” and “Sources of Influence”. Here the descriptions are about building relationships by “monitoring” and “measuring”. Varying types of influencers are discussed and how to “leverage” them to win. Discussed are the “dimensions” of expertise, process, and people. I’m now going to digress momentarily for the sake of illustration. In language, such a thing as Nominalizations exists. Nominalization means to take a subject, like “Communication” or “Love”, which are verbs and turn them into nouns. Nouns are things that we can feel and touch. As I’ve heard it illustrated before, if you can put it in a wheelbarrow, it’s a noun. So, when we make a statement that we need to communicate more effectively, we have created a nominalization. If we make the statement that “The person fell in love”, we have created a nominalization. We have taken something we do and made it into a thing. My point? Most people in their hurry to “get things done” have turned building relationships into a nominalization; something they do to get an end result.

Can people learn relationship skills and have some success? Yes, and short-term. The “underlying element” that neuroscience has discovered, that unseen connection we have with other people, will eventually reveal the true intention of anyone only using their “skills” in a disingenuous way, such as when ‘leveraging your client’s sources for win-win arrangements’.

Learning relationship skills can be helpful if a person grew up in an environment which had no structure for teaching them the behaviors that are appropriate in varying settings like business, romantic relationships, families, etc. Even when a person hasn’t received good influences and training in these areas, the human mind has two parts that integrate to quickly teach them proper behavior; the Anterior Cingulate Cortex and the Amygdala.

So, what answers do I have regarding relationship skills? Here they are:

  • Don’t perform relationship skills. Instead, integrate building relationships into who you are, it’s who you’re being.
  • Intend the relationship first and the end-result second.
  • Understand that you may not acquire the end-result 100% of the time and, 99% of the time, maintain the relationship anyway.
  • When the desire and intention to build lasting relationships emanates from who you are as a person, you will never have to concern yourself with learning relationship skills. Why? When you closely observe people that easily and naturally build long-term relationships, you learn that it’s just who they are or who they’ve become. And, when you own this trait, the skills come naturally!