Last year, I was at lunch with an extraordinary networker. Almost everyone passing our table would stop and say hello. I don’t think there was a single person in the restaurant who didn’t know her. It wasn’t superficial either. I watched with great respect for her ability to recall details of the person’s family. She would ask questions about health issues, about family members, about friends.
It’s no wonder that people call her for connections. Her list of friends seems to have no end.
Fast forward to a different day, a different scene, and a different person. This time I was observing a business meeting. One of the men had an incredible ability to build rapport. He was reaching people on an emotional level. His ability to quickly build trust was amazing. Two people would argue and he would synthesize the arguments and find common ground between them.
Contrast this with people who are divisive and negative. They seem to repel people and not even know it. Instead of building bridges, they create gulfs. Many people say not to discuss politics or religion because the topics can be divisive. I have never followed this advice and find it easy to discuss sensitive topics. Why? Because I am genuinely interested in people’s beliefs and opinions. That’s how I learn. The key is to do it with respect and to borrow techniques from the world’s greatest bridge builders.
“Got it,” you think, “negative versus positive.” Not so fast.
Driving Others Away
Some people who build gulfs are actually unknowingly repelling people in a different way.
I recall another incident where a woman presented her products and services incredibly well. Everyone attending was impressed. She was clearly brilliant. But she let everyone know how smart she was. As a result, the people in the room couldn’t connect with her. This means she was building a gulf. She was separating herself and her ideas from others.
What prompted this post was remembering these events after reading my notes from a Jim Rohn seminar. In my notes: “Language designed to impress builds a gulf. Language designed to express builds a bridge.” In the margin, I made a note: Learn to be a bridge builder!
If you are wealthy, is it possible to build a bridge with someone in a different economic class? If you are middle-class, is it possible to connect with a billionaire? Of course you can.
Watch a master sales professional at work, and you will almost always see a bridge builder.
Leaders build bridges to other people with authentic connections.
Bridge builders generously connect others and ideas.
Bridge builders take two opposing people and bring them together.
Bridge builders look for similarities and common ground.
Bridge builders don’t shy away from differences, but learn from them.
Leaders Build Bridges
If you, like me, aspire to learn to be a better leader, then it’s imperative that you learn to build bridges.
Are you busy building bridges or digging gulfs?