Networking with depth – The difference between acquaintances and friends

I remember coaching someone in Emotional Intelligence some years ago, who was already quite an effective, confident communicator.  They had a good personal brand, sincere charisma, and were quite confident in front of large groups.  Their real problem was during one-and-one situations, although it was subtle enough for me not to identify straight away.

This person was excellent at interacting with others, communicating appropriately, and was very good at the business they worked in.  What they weren’t good at was building up relationships with people. That’s not to say they didn’t have any relationships – they were married, but they struggled to see the difference between just interacting with people, and having a relationship with people.  Between being acquaintances or something more meaningful, if you will.

The difference is really a matter of time.  Someone you meet and have a conversation with once will almost certainly treat and speak to you differently when compared to someone you speak to every week for ten minutes, for five years.  That’s not to say regularity of contact has anything to do with the depth of connection, but a relationship develops over time, not over the number of words spoken.

As Bradberry and Greaves state in their book ‘The Emotional Intelligence Quickbook’, behind every interaction within a relationship there is an emotion.  It may be strong, it may be barely palpable, but it is there, and you need to be able to recognise it; what’s been said, how it’s said, and what the subtext is.  The problem the person I was coaching had, was they were so keen to expand their sphere of influence that they weren’t looking for subtext and emotion in relationships, they simply wanted to build numbers. In business, I would recommend generating a useful group of meaningful work relationships that will stay with you for a long period of time.  These people will be helpful for advice, emotionally reassuring and make work a less lonely place.

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