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Making Stronger Interpersonal Connections


Becoming effective as a physician means connecting well with colleagues and patients. Here are three ways to strengthen relationships.

If only a simple method was available to predict when you will make a strong connection with someone, be it in your practice, a social situation, or otherwise. Actually, a formula does exist: if you are known, then liked, then trusted, everything can flow from that.

Between any two people, getting to know, like, and trust each other often follows a particular path. The length of the journey can vary widely, but almost in every case, few if any effective shortcuts are available when it comes to trust. Let's examine the three elements, one at a time:

1. To be known

You have to meet someone, converse, learn about them, have them learn about you, and perhaps have some follow up. If you are alike in some way, or have something in common, that helps.

2. To be liked

What is the key to being liked by someone? Usually it starts with you liking them. This sound like a circular explanation, but it is not. When you convey to other parties that you like them, approve of them, enjoy being around them, understand where they're coming from, or have commonalities, if they reciprocate it happens nearly instantaneously.

Hundreds of facial movements that most of us might never completely understand, in and around our eyes, corners of our mouths, and foreheads, indicate to one another when, indeed, we like the person we've encountered.

3. To be trusted

On an interpersonal basis, becoming known and becoming liked are relatively easy compared to the third component of human interaction, which is to be trusted. While it's possible to meet someone whom you trust almost instantly, in many cases that represents a leap of faith.
If you walk into an automobile dealership and encounter a sales person who you trust, it might be because this person has mastered a variety of verbal and nonverbal cues to indicate to you that he or she will be okay to work with.

Generally, trust builds up over time. To move from acquaintanceship, to friendship, to something else, such as long-term business associates or long-term social partners, takes a while to develop.

One caveat: Trust can be a fleeting phenomena. One major withdrawal, in other words one incidence of apparent betrayal, can bring the level of trust crashing down. Thereafter, liking one another can be in jeopardy. You still know each other but in a different light.

The bank is open

Building trust is akin to building up a bank savings account. You have to keep making deposits, which is synonymous with positive indications that you can be counted on. Now and then you can make a withdrawal, which is synonymous with something not going exactly as each of you might have hoped it would.

The savings account grows to a healthy sum if the deposits are overwhelming compared to the withdrawals. So, too, with building trust. Keep making deposit after deposit with few if any withdrawals, and lo and behold the trust builds.

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