When I used to drop my kids off at daycare, my primary focus was ejecting the children from my car so I could get on to my mile long to-do list. Screeching tires, flying gravel and… was that a little girl wearing a halloween costume in March? I passed through the parking lot as quickly as possible.
From an efficiency standpoint, this was great. I was knocking things off the list and making stuff happen! From a relationship-with-daycare-workers-and-other-parents, it was pretty bad.
Relationships are funny and fickle things. You can’t put them on a checklist and mark them off. You can’t show up, say a compliment and walk away. No matter how charming you are or how much corporate communication training you’ve had, building relationships takes time. It requires doing the work to know another person. Putting in the time of simply being together. There are no shortcuts.
I spent years as a veterinarian ducking into and out of exam rooms like a game show contestant navigating an obstacle course. I took great care of pet owners and pushed appointments quickly and efficiently. But at the end of the day, when my technicians would go home, I had no idea where they went. I didn’t know what they did, or who met them when they got home.
I knew the people I worked with, but I didn’t really KNOW them. I knew their competencies and behaviors. I knew their quirks and what made them laugh. I didn’t know, however, what they cared about, how they thought, or what they aspired to become in the future. I didn’t know what they wanted to accomplish before they died, what their most meaningful life experience had been, or what made them proud at the end of the day.
I regret not knowing those things.
I think a lot of us believe we don’t have better relationships with the people around us because we don’t have time to build those relationships. I’m not so sure that’s true. Recently I’ve been pondering the idea that maybe it’s not time that holds us back. Maybe it’s a lack of curiosity. Maybe we forget to wonder about people we see everyday. Or maybe we’re just too shy to ask people about themselves.
In my experience, most people are thrilled to have someone want to know more about them. They smile and open up. They feel special and seen. Asking deeper questions so we can better know others isn’t a weird thing in practice. Instead it’s usually a path to deeper, more trusting relationships.
Who do you know, but don’t really know? What could you ask them today to start to make that journey?