How many conversations have you had today? What range of people have you spoken to? And what variety of topics have formed the content of these interactions?
I'm not talking here just about the formal business conversations that mattered to you. I'm referring to all those 'pass-timing' moments as well – the water cooler conversations; the brief exchange as you purchased train tickets, your morning coffee or a refill of petrol.
While some of those interactions will have been with people you won't meet again, many of them will have taken place with individuals who are a regular part of your life – at least for now, if not forever.
It's quite possible you can't even remember all the conversations you've had, especially if you're reading this towards the end of the day. And it'll be even more difficult to recall if you add in all the voicemails, emails, Facebook comments, LinkedIn messages et al. that form a significant part of our conversations with others, as technology plays an ever-increasing role in our lives.
Each and every one of those interactions has either improved or damaged the relationship you have with the others involved. For many interactions the impact may be tiny, for others it may be more significant. But even the tiny impacts cannot be ignored. When you interact regularly with someone, many tiny interactions make or break the relationship. And even with the one-offs, you may be surprised by just how significant that minor impact is.
A good friend and colleague regularly gets upgraded hotel rooms, extra chocolates with her coffee, a special discount in shops – how? She sees every interaction as an opportunity to improve relationships – whether one-offs or long-term. She applies some fundamental rules of good conversations with everyone as a result; she smiles, she makes eye contact, she shows genuine interest, she uses people's names...
And in business, no matter how hi-tech our world is becoming, without good relationships we have nothing. Good relationships are built on lots and lots of good conversations. Good conversations build trust, respect and a genuine desire to help each other out. Look up any literature on running a successful business and you'll find relationships at the centre. Strong finances and a robust strategy are necessary, yes. But without people they will amount to little.
So as you interact with people today, count every one of those interactions as a chance to improve the relationship you have. If you treat them as a throwaway commodity you're making life more difficult today, tomorrow and for the long term.
Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net