There are tons of books, videos, and blogs that talk about communication being a key aspect of building relationships and they are correct. The reason for communicating is to learn about others. When we learn about other people, we build trust, we build understanding, and we build bonds. The more we know about others, the better we can be at being there for them in all circumstances. We learn their likes and dislikes but only through active listening and being intentional about communication.
Being intentional requires practice. Be on the lookout for words or phrases that indicate a positive or negative emotion and then be curious about what caused that emotion. A simple inquiry regarding how the day went can elicit a wide range of emotional words or phrases. Someone may respond with it was great or it was horrible. Those are easy to get a little deeper by asking what was good about their day or what caused them to have a bad experience. As you dig deeper into what generated that emotion, you can learn more about them and hopefully be able to apply that same learning to other potential experiences.
The way to get deeper is to ask more questions. Ask what caused the emotion; ask what specific aspect of that person caused the emotion; ask if they have experienced that before at work or in some other setting. Just keep asking to learn as much about what emotion was triggered and what triggered it. I have discovered that the most knowledge about someone is learned when discussing things that have caused a negative emotion. Often, the person can get very specific about the trigger and other areas that apply.
One area that trip up most people is when there is no specific positive or negative emotion, but rather a neutral emotional response. Those types can be tricky but keep asking. Often their day, as a whole, may not have an overall positive or negative, but throughout the day, the person experienced many emotional swings although they may have been very shallow. Something today made them smile or made them irritated, or perhaps they felt content which is still a positive emotion.
Regardless of the emotion, the goal is to learn about them and be supportive as much as possible so that the relationship grows, trust is built, and positive emotions are felt toward each other. This will not happen organically. It must happen through intentional time spent together and in conversation. Be curious about those things that generate emotions in other people, and you will learn quite a bit. You will then be surprised how the relationship matures as you grow closer to each other.
Charles Bower, LPC - Associate
My passion is relationships of all kinds. I have been working with people dealing with relationship issues, both professionally and personally, for several years and still see the potential in every relationship to not only survive but thrive. I also have experience with biblical and Christian counseling, which is also a passion of mine. However, I do not impose my beliefs on any client and have successfully navigated working with clients of varying world views and spiritual beliefs.