No matter the platform or technology, building authentic relationships requires being intentional, curious and vulnerable. Consider these strategies from executive coach and former AmLaw and Apple lawyer Rudhir Krishtel.
Table of contents
- The Value of Technology in Fostering Connections
- Strategies for Building Authentic Relationships
- Leveraging Technology for Relationship Building
- Managing Expectations
In an era where technology is so deeply ingrained in our lives, leveraging it to build and maintain authentic and professional relationships is quickly becoming a necessity. Our devices are now extensions of ourselves and should play a critical role in how we connect and communicate with others. However, technology also presents some obstacles to maintaining genuine, authentic connections — especially in a field that relies on confidentiality and trust.
How we intentionally decide to interact with technology will fundamentally shape the nature of our relationships. It’s crucial to remember that the quality of our relationships is not determined by the medium of communication but by the sincerity and depth of the interactions.
The Value of Technology in Fostering Connections
A long-term study on happiness conducted by Harvard Business Review underscores that relationships are pivotal to our happiness. Interestingly, the study didn’t confine the value of relationships to physical proximity, indicating that it is not a significant factor in relational satisfaction. Meaningful connections can be forged and sustained both through physical and virtual interactions, transcending geographical boundaries and time zones.
Platforms like LinkedIn, Zoom and Slack allow us to connect, collaborate and build relationships with peers, clients and stakeholders across the globe. These platforms facilitate a space where legal professionals can network, share knowledge and collaborate on cases without the need to be physically present in a shared location either synchronously or asynchronously. This, of course, has been highlighted during the global shift to remote work, where technology has been pivotal in maintaining team cohesion and client relationships despite physical distance.
The digital space also enables diverse communication preferences and objectives — especially for people who need adaptations to do their best work. The option to communicate simultaneously through audio, video and/or written word; to slow things up or down; to revisit and jump around, leads to more ways and more people who can process and understand information via their preferred communication styles.
This diversity allows professionals to foster inclusive and multifaceted connections, leading to overall better outcomes.
Strategies for Building Authentic Relationships
No matter what platform you are using, whether it’s in-person or virtual through technology, it’s essential to focus on authenticity first. Here are a few things to consider.
Before engaging in a conversation, think about the purpose of the interaction. Is it to offer something, to seek something or to relate to something in particular? Relationships often blossom when there is a mutual exchange of help or when individuals endure shared experiences. Ensure that your interactions are supportive and beneficial to the other person.
Genuine curiosity fuels connection. Take the time to ask meaningful questions and listen attentively to others. Strive for a balanced conversation, allowing the other person to express themselves while sharing your own thoughts and experiences. For relationships you are investing in growing, keep the 80/20 rule in mind, where you are listening and being curious 80% of the time and speaking 20%. Curiosity and active listening build a strong foundation for deeper and more authentic connections.
A degree of vulnerability can foster deeper connections and build trust among professionals, clients and colleagues alike. Discretion with how, when and on which platforms you choose to be vulnerable allows you to connect and relate to people authentically without compromising your professional boundaries.
Leveraging Technology for Relationship Building
Once you root the conversation in authenticity, there are various platforms, technologies and tools that can support and enhance the connections you are fostering.
Embrace Video and Audio Communication
Using video and audio for both synchronous and asynchronous communication can enhance the depth of connections. Platforms like Zoom, Otter, Loom, Slack and audio-in-text messages allow you to leverage video, audio and written communication — all at the same time. Whether recording a quick video to send to a client or meeting face-to-face through a virtual meeting, both sender and recipient can process information in the most personally efficient way. These platforms are quickly integrating transcription, machine learning and AI to further accelerate, enhance and streamline communication processes, especially in group settings.
Meaningful Interactions on Social Media
Over the pandemic, I forged a connection with someone I consistently interacted with on LinkedIn. When we finally met on a Zoom call, our interaction flowed as if we were longtime friends, despite never having met in person. This instant closeness was cultivated over the previous years through consistent engagement — mostly by commenting on each other’s posts. Sharing content that resonates and sparks genuine interaction fosters a community grounded in authenticity. This paves the way for deeper, more personal connections when interactions transition from the digital to the real(ish) world. Important relationships, recognition and mutual respect are built one post or engagement at a time.
Use a Customer Relationship Management Tool
Leveraging CRM tools, or even a simple spreadsheet, to keep track of your interactions and set reminders for follow-ups can ensure that no relationship falls through the cracks. Dunbar’s Number suggests that humans can only maintain 150 stable relationships. However, CRMs can help deepen relationships and even expand this number by ensuring regular and meaningful interactions. AI is making big strides in this area, using algorithms to suggest reaching out based on time, significant events and other factors that would be hard to manage manually. Using a CRM to manage relationships can lead to increased retention and referrals as current and potential clients notice your efforts to connect on things that matter to them.
Building and maintaining relationships is pivotal for your law practice’s growth and development. Leveraging technology, when done authentically and thoughtfully, not only makes this process efficient but also deepens and strengthens your connections.
However, the efficiency and immediacy of technology can turn toxic if expectations are not managed appropriately. The rapid nature of digital interactions can also compromise the depth and thoughtfulness required to build and maintain rewarding relationships. Remember these strategies — intentionality, curiosity and vulnerability — to build more authentic relationships.
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