In-depth, Trusted Relationship Building

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How do we build trusted, in-depth relationships, one vital quality which makes us humans? It isn’t easy and we are much too quick to let relationships go.  At times I’ve gone through life much too quickly, involving myself in many things, because, it always seems as if there is way too much to do.  For me, this really seems to be the case in living overseas.  I have too many interests and there seems to be so many needs, at least my senses, so alive, lead me to believe this.

I really didn’t know how to build relationships, until I moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in   July 2006.  This was my dream job, a public market and I was the manager.  But I didn’t understand the importance of slowing down, looking someone in the eyes when I said hello, focusing only on that person.  I was always in a hurry, needing to complete the next task.  Sometimes this hasn’t changed.   I didn’t learn the relationship lesson in Lancaster, what I called my domestic Peace Corps, until it was much too late. I left in November 2007, understanding more than when I arrived, but without a job.

I had incredible experiences living among the Amish, asking questions of then President George W. Bush, at a Lancaster Chamber of Commerce event, and even getting W. to sign a copy of a US News and World Report with a photo of Hilary Clinton.  But what I didn’t understand, and which led me to leaving Lancaster, was how to listen and build relationships.

I think a lot about Lancaster, lots of great memories and people, but also lots of disappointment.  What I didn’t know at that time is how this experience placed me on a path, enabling me to live and volunteer overseas in March 2009.

Now, whenever I meet someone, no matter who they are and whether or not I can speak the same language, I look them in the eyes, try to be conscious and give them my full attention.  I try to slow down and just focus on that person and understand what they are saying to me. When people come into my office to talk I close my laptop and shut off the omnipresent beeps and rings that I hear from my Skype and Facebook friends. Of course multi-tasking and talking to numerous friends has become the norm, which is directly in contradiction to what I’m trying to espouse in this article. 

Facebook, Skype and other modern chatting methods, has helped us to show snippets of our life but how often does one look at all of the photos posted or read the articles uploaded from others?  We might think that this is about building “friendships” but all it does is keep us superficially connected, losing the ability to build in-depth relationships. 

For those of us who have become caught in the modern communications web, it is difficult to just be.  On some level when I see others just sitting in the sun, talking to friends I wonder what they could be doing? But in fact they are building and maintaining their relationships, something, for those of us working in development, can really learn a lot.    

We’re always moving, going to the next location, making new friends, partly because people want to know us because we are from the west.  But this runs entirely counter to building trusted, in-depth, relationships and although we all have oodles of Facebook friends we often “suffer” from this superficiality, at least, I know that I do. 

The other side of the coin is that, from living overseas, I have made some remarkable relationships, somewhat also maintaining my relationships in the US, those which I consistently spend the time maintaining, but it isn’t easy.  Part of this is that relationships require 50/50 and I know how busy everyone is, at least in appearance.

There is a lot to be learned from the so-called developing world and that has to do with building trusted, in-depth relationships.  My hope is that those of us  who have come from the west, including myself, never bring development work to the point of dismissing the secret of relationships, which really isn’t so secret.  We just have to take the time to stop, look into someone’s eyes and listen with our full senses to what they are saying through their senses. 



Position: Lover of Life-Change Agent

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