Reality Check: Building a Relationship – Deliberately

We might take the building of relationships for granted. Relationships just happen—we meet someone; we hit it off for whatever reason, and we have a relationship!
To be clear, I’m not referring to romantic relationships here. I’m talking about the folks at work, in your community, or even at the dog park. They are just people with whom you share some aspects of your life.
Have you ever thought of deliberately building such a relationship? Consider this possibility.
Ray loved his job. But the company changed and he was offered a choice: take a different job or retire.
The company presented the choice as if Ray is a burden, not an asset to the company. So much for appreciation of his long service! Ray isn’t happy, but he’s not ready to retire.
While Ray could be justified in feeling bitter and negative about his situation, he is open to the possibility of making the best of it. The strategy that Ray has chosen is to deliberately build a good relationship with his new boss.
This may be a challenge for Ray. The new boss is not a great communicator. He seems confused as to why Ray is now reporting to him. So far, he has responded by ignoring Ray for long periods, followed by short bouts of micromanagement. This doesn’t bode well.
However, Ray is a people-observer and an experimenter. Although the new job is a disappointment, he sees it as an opportunity to deliberately try out some behaviours. “Let’s try something and see what happens!” is his attitude toward this disappointing situation.
With this outlook in mind, the technique that he has decided to use is that of positive feedback and appreciation. Ray is choosing to look deliberately for any opportunities, even tiny ones, to give positive recognition to his boss.
When you look at the world through a specific, chosen filter, it can be surprising what you see! In this case, Ray is looking intently for any positive behaviour by his boss. The opportunities begin to appear.
Ray’s boss sends him to meet with a customer. Ray thanks him for the opportunity. Then, the boss asks him if he wants copies of correspondence. Ray declines, but thanks him for asking. Later, the boss asked Ray for his opinion on a decision; Ray thanked him for considering his input.
You get the idea. These are small behaviours, but all in the same direction— cooperation and appreciation.
Had Ray not deliberately chosen his relationship building strategy, back when he was filled with bitterness and resentment, he would have responded differently.
For example, when he was sent to meet the customer, Ray would have huffed and complained that in his old job, he didn’t have to meet customers.
When asked if he wants correspondence, Ray could have sent a terse response, such as, “No.”
And when asked for his opinion, Ray could have responded cynically. After all, he “knows” that his opinion wouldn’t be valued, so why provide it?
Is it worth making the effort to deliberately build a relationship? There’s no guarantee that his relationship-building behaviours will create a good relationship. There are so few guarantees in life, aren’t there?
However, there are two benefits:
1. No matter what happens, Ray will learn something. He will see that his behaviour either makes the situation better or worse. He can then adjust his strategy according to what he sees.
2. Using a deliberate strategy provides Ray with a little more in control of his situation. He can choose his own behaviour; he may as well make choices that could lead him toward, potentially, a better working environment.
What do you think of deliberately building a relationship? Do you view it as manipulative? Do you see it as effective?

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