One of my favourite resources for professional services marketing is David Maister's series of podcasts. In his Business Masterclass episode “Cultivate the Habits of Friendship” he shares a lovely anecdote about building relationships that bears repeating:
The actress Angelina Jolie was interviewed on television and asked if she had to like the characters she was portraying in order to act them well. Her answer was brilliant. She said something like: “You can’t love everything about everyone. But there must be something there. The key is to find that one small slice of overlap between you and them, and focus intensely on that overlap, ignoring everything else.” I don’t know about acting, but that sounds like a perfect recipe for human relationships to me.
The reality of relationships is that everyone is different, and everyone is flawed. There will be things we like, and things we dislike (in differing proportions) about everyone.
Although it's often said that you get 30 seconds to make a good impression – and that's great advice for how we should present ourselves – we absolutely must not treat others in this way. Yes, our time is precious. Yes, we cannot have deep relationships with everyone and we must be selective. But we must not make that selection based on the first 30 seconds.
We've got to take time and make an effort to establish a relationship with people before making that selection. In my life, the scouser who looked so much like a “scally” at our first meeting I feared for my hub-caps is my oldest friend; and the irascible Scot who everyone else steered clear of was the guy who gave me some of the most insightful advice on sales I've ever had.
Angelina's method of focusing on the areas of overlap and ignoring the rest is a great way of starting relationship and of beginning to find out enough about people to know whether to continue the relationship rather than making a snap decision.
Image via ThisParticularGreg