A while back, we looked at Andrea Howe’s work on how to rebuild customer relationships by focusing on trust. One of our top-takeaways was that building trust can help you to have difficult conversations on difficult subjects—and that one of the best ways to do this is through your own or others’ experience. Sharing your own experience provides the bonus that it further helps to build trust in the relationship.

We recently had a discussion with Andrea, and the chance to further explore where trust and thought leadership intersect. Here are five takeaways from that discussion, with some useful resources supplied by Andrea.

Relationship-building is NOT different online

In a post entitled The (New) 80/20 Rule for Virtual Relationships, Andrea pointed out that many posts and articles about good practice in building virtual relationships talk about the technology. They’re all about best practice with Zoom or Teams, and how to engage people over video links. However, she suggests that you actually need to spend 80% of your time on the relationship, and only 20% on virtual best practice. Whether you are meeting in person or virtually, relationship-building and selling are still the same: they’re all about people, and fear is the biggest derailer of trust. This post also provides links to three other articles containing a combined 20 ideas that you can do right now to start building better relationships. 


You can’t be resilient without support and recovery time

Resilience is a tricky thing. We all agree that it’s important—but somehow during the pandemic it became a dirty word. It’s technically your ability to recover from setbacks, or learn from mistakes. However, that doesn’t mean being able to survive hideously difficult times (like a global pandemic) without any support. Struggling at times like that doesn’t mean you’re NOT resilient. It just means that times were extraordinarily hard. Andrea highlighted two articles that discussed issues around this. The first is on how to provide support and improve genuine resilience among your employees and reports. The second is about the importance of giving yourself time to recover if you are to remain resilience: that none of us can keep going for ever without a break.

We are hard-wired to need human contact

It is more than ten years since the publication of the Cluetrain Manifesto, but its central message remains as important as ever: we need human connections. Andrea quotes Matthew Lieberman, the author of the book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, as saying “Being socially connected is our brain’s lifelong passion”. This goes back tens of millions of years, and is confirmed by scans of brain activity. Matthew’s TED Talk, The social brain and its superpowers, explains that social pain—the pain of rejection or separation—is experienced by the brain in the same way as physical pain. Matthew argues that our real kryptonite as a species is not this pain of separation, but that we don’t fully understand the value of social relationships.

Being generous is a great way to build relationships—but it must be genuine

One of Andrea’s pandemic posts provided ‘Ninja tips’ on making generous offers. She argued that this is essential because of two things. First, fear is the great derailer of strong, thriving relationships. Second, fear and generosity cannot coexist. Andrea explained that being generous meant giving something helpful to someone else without wanting any kind of reward or payback, but just because it was helpful right now. She provided seven tips, and invited readers to try any four—provided that one of them was ‘attach no strings’. As ‘strings’, she included secret hopes of payback, saying “If you find yourself thinking, “If I do this for them now, maybe they’ll reciprocate later,” … then don’t do this for them now”. 

Ask ‘How are you today?’ or ‘How are you right now?’, not ‘How are you?

The question ‘How are you?’ is a completely standard part of almost every human interaction in the US or UK. It’s also almost completely meaningless, because nobody answers honestly, and nobody really wants to hear the answer—purely because it is so familiar. In a mid-pandemic rant that still resonates today, Andrea suggests that we should instead as ‘How are you today?’ or ‘How are you right now?’ instead. She suggests that being specific gives people the chance to open up if they wish, and provide a genuine answer instead of a platitude.