If you missed our previous posts in this series, you can start with Building Trust Part 1: Communication.We all have expectations of ourselves and others and they fall into one or more of the following categories: communication, character, concern, competence, connectedness, and consistency. Trust is built when we prove reliable by meeting others’ expectations in these areas.
6 Ways to Enhance Relational Connectedness
“Americans are spending a lot less time breaking bread with friends than we did twenty or thirty years ago.” Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone
Relationships play a vital role in building and maintaining trust. When people are relationally connected to one another, they have a greater opportunity to know what is happening in the lives of others, to manifest care and concern when needs are discovered, and to keep potential for conflict and misunderstanding to a minimum.
Two are better than One
An overarching theme in the Bible, explicitly stated in the book of Ecclesiastes, is that two are better than one. Confirming this, research conducted by the Gallup Organization, whose findings are presented in the book Vital Friends, showed that people who have a best friend at work are more likely to engage customers more effectively, get more done, have greater satisfaction with their job and pay, and be less likely to leave the company.
Recent Decline in Connectedness
However, relational connection in the U.S. has been on a 35 year decline. Research shows that we entertain fewer people in our homes and connect much less with neighbors than we did in the 50’s-60’s. A growing concern is that just when we are realizing the need for greater relational connection from leaders and employees, they may have fewer skills to even know how to form and sustain such relationships.
“As we approach the new millennium, many of us modern crave men have acquired the things we need and are now burrowed into a socially detached style of unassisted living. Indeed, where our ancestors enjoyed the company of small groups, members of progressive societies are becoming monadic, foraging in the vicinity of other people but feeding mainly on themselves.”
John Locke, The Devoicing of Society
The 6 Principles to Increase Connectedness
We sometimes have a propensity to use the way we “do relationships” with others as a standard of how others should “do relationships”. However, we are all unique. Although not everyone has the exact same relational needs or relational resources, there are universal principles essential for enhancing relational connection.
The “one another” commands found throughout the New Testament have, at their core, the assumption that we must first care enough about obeying God and building relational connections with others in order to risk even trying to build them. In addition, when people treat relationships in a utilitarian fashion, people get hurt.
“Friendships patterned on commodities, consumerism, mass production, and collectibles are friendships without heart. People were not designed to be treated as commodities, to be consumed, to be collected, or to have their relationships mass produced like assembly line goods. Such is a breeding ground for broken hearts.”Len Davis in Christ Centered Friendships
Reciprocity is an essential function of healthy relational connection. The basic tenant of this principle is: I will do something for you with the hope that you or someone else will do something for me when I need it. While this reciprocity should never be the heart motive for reaching out to others, it is a foundational aspect of most social relationships.
“If you don’t go to somebody’s funeral, they won’t come to yours.” Yogi Berra
“Come to our breakfast, we’ll come to your fire.” Fire Department slogan
Vulnerability is sometimes confused with softness, especially by men. However, vulnerability is little more than sharing the truth about oneself at the appropriate time and with appropriate people. Vulnerability does require discernment, but it is not optional for building authentic relationships.
“As leaders increase in stature, a significant temptation draws them like a magnet. They are seduced into hiding the truth about themselves in order to create or maintain an image that they believe will maintain their influence. To maintain their position of leadership, people at the top may live lives of pretense and disguise, especially when faced with potential failure, which must be covered up at all costs in order to protect their authority and power. But it does not have to be this way.” Thrall, McNicol, McElrath, The Ascent of a Leader
Proximity is the physical location of one person or group to another person or group. For example, you are more likely to have a closer relationship with someone you have regular contact with than with someone you do not – the person who works in your department, the neighbor who lives next door, and the friend you see regularly at church. Proximity increases the amount of contact two individuals may have with one another.
Time is related to how long you have known another person or group and how often you are with them. The longer you know someone, the more opportunities you have to interact, observe behavior, and express interest and concern about them.
“To involve oneself with another person for the purpose of ministry is risky. It requires that we concern ourselves with another’s welfare rather than our own. Easy words. But vulnerable ministry offered to people who cannot be trusted to respond appreciatively is frightening, and when their response is neglect or rejection, the pain can be unbearable. Continued involvement at that point is the ultimate measure of love. Our Lord died for friends who rejected Him and for soldiers who beat Him.” Larry Crabb, Understanding People, p.197
There is something powerful about relational connection. Without it, you will find increased conflict, misunderstanding, and distrust. With it, you will find greater joy, emotional health, and trust.
Do you personally seek to foster healthy relational connection with those around you? How do you know?
Does your organization foster an environment that values relational connection? How do you know?
If you missed it:
Read the final post in this series: Building Trust Part 6: Consistency
For more on cultivating trust, read the article "Cultivating Trust in Your Organization" in our book FIT – Improving the Leadership Health of Yourself and Others.
Jay is the Executive Director of The Center and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton. Jay brings experience in the areas of ministry assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include a B.S. in Bible, a M.Ed in Instructional Systems Design and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership.