In 2009, in a nondescript conference room near Wall Street, forty of us listened as Keith Ferrazzi delivered instructions for an exercise that made everyone visibly uncomfortable.
We were the first class of the “Relationship Masters Academy.” Keith was there to teach us how to build meaningful, authentic relationships, beginning with the strangers in the class.
How to relate to another person
At that time, Keith had recently released a new book about networking. His first one, Never Eat Alone, had already become known as “the bestselling business classic on the power of relationships.”
In one exercise, he formed us into groups and told us to avoid “the usual professional small talk.” Instead, he instructed us to share something personal, to be more curious about each other, to try and genuinely care. My small group included three investment bankers I never met before, and I quickly assumed what they were like. But, following Keith’s instructions, we shared details of our lives, offering vulnerability and attention.
That changed everything. The strangers in my group turned out to be wildly different from what I imagined and also different from each other. After our short exercise, I found I liked and cared about each of them, and during the course we became friends.
50 facts about you
Many people are uncomfortable with this approach to relationships at work—“I keep my personal and professional lives separate.” “I don’t think it’s appropriate.”—and most of us don’t have a Keith Ferrazzi guiding us through the process.
I wrote Week 5 of a Working Out Loud Circle (“Make it personal”) to make things easier. One of the exercises is to list 50 facts about yourself and then discuss your lists, looking for connections and surprises. In almost every Circle, this exchange brings the group members closer together. (You can find my own list here.) As Keith writes, seeking common ground is “just a door to take us beyond the superficial,” making it easier to develop a deeper relationship.
Trust + Relatedness = Possibility
There’s plenty of research showing that feelings of trust and relatedness lead to greater information exchange, cooperation, and collaboration.
When it comes to your own work, how do you build that sense of trust and relatedness? How do you go beyond the superficial—especially now—and open doors that can increase a feeling of connection and earn you access to new possibilities?