In today’s increasingly diverse world, developing and maintaining relationships with your community can be challenging, especially if you serve an area with a wide range of cultures. In addition to language barriers, customs and beliefs about appropriate behaviors may vary from group to group. For example, looking another person in the eye when you’re talking is considered respectful in some cultures and disrespectful in others.
Here are nine tips that will increase the likelihood that you can connect successfully with members of your community, regardless of how similar or different your backgrounds are.
- Learn and use people's names. Remember personal information about them, such as their interests or important events or people in their lives.
- Create a culture of commitment, not compliance, by being inclusive, aware of others' needs and willing to invest the necessary time and effort into relationships.
- Minimize the differences between you and others: use inclusive language, avoid jargon, make sure your body language is inviting, paint others into your picture and identify areas of agreement.
- Engage in active listening so people feel they've been heard and understood, even if you disagree with them.
- Conduct a relationship size-up to assess the relationship from the other person's perspective. This will let you to connect more quickly and easily—or to determine whether this relationship is one you should pursue.
- Try to provide value to the other person in every interaction. This tactic increases trust, decreases resistance and enables others to view you as a valuable partner.
- Let others know how their input (time, effort, financial resources) connects to the value you provide (quality relationship, safe community).
- Make sure everyone is on the same page by checking assumptions for validity, defining terms and dumping jargon and acronyms.
- A little appreciation or recognition goes a long way. It doesn't cost a thing, and the return on your investment of time is huge.