As it is with so much in our lives, we understand little and practice even less, the essentials of engagement that lead to successful relationships. We either communicate in a way that tears one another apart or we can build each other up, which is the best possible option.

Like a well-tended garden, several steps are taken in the process of sowing and then reaping. Most start with the small seeds planted in the daily moments of our lives. Seeds of connection that lead to satisfying and long-term liaisons. Imagine the garden we could plant and the people we could feed!

We can learn much from Dale Carnegie, famous for his development of leadership mastery skills. In 1936, he penned this profound thought, “dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you will ever face.” He goes on to share his revolutionary but straightforward ideas about how to influence and communicate with others. His soulful strategies will change the way you connect with others and build relationships.

Carnegie’s work touts principles such as, “don’t criticize, condemn, or complain,” and (purposely) “talk about other’s interests before your own,” and “admit when you are wrong” that are all reminiscent of the same ideas that Jesus tried to teach us over 2,000 years ago.

By applying Carnegie’s time-tested principles, you will become a person of influence in others’ lives and fulfill a (philanthropic) purpose every day. What success does not begin with some form of relationship? These truths have been coined “soft skills.” They are defined as acts of compassion and empathy. He states further, “when we behave in ways that befriend and positively influence others, we tap into a deeper well of inspiration, meaning, and resourcefulness.” People always remember interactions that leave them feeling just a little bit better.

Carnegie says that there are three ways to engage others and become an influencer in the lives of others: bury your boomerangs (resist bad-mouthing), affirm goodness, and connect with core desires.

We must take an interest in others’ interests to engage them in the most mutually beneficial way. Alfred Adler, the famous psychotherapist, stated that” It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men, who has the most significant difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from such individuals that all human failures spring”. People are attracted to people who care about what interests them. When you incorporate others’ interest into your own, you will find that your interests and needs are met in the process of helping. Thoreau so richly wrote, “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”

Excellent communication skills are the powerhouse of growing transformative relationships. It was stated by Drs. Brinkman and Kirschner, in their book, “Dealing With Difficult People, that “communication is like a phone number. If you leave out one number, (only 10% of the number), the call will not go through. If you dial the area code at the end as an after-thought, the call does not go through. You need all the digits to get through, and you need them in the right order.”

One of these skills is the power of listening. It is in using the technique that we possess the ability to change hearts and minds. Listening, more specifically, is giving people what they desire most — to be heard and understood. When you genuinely tune in to someone, you not only make an instant impression, you will build a stable bridge for lasting connections.

Dale Carnegie and Associates suggests that we read others’ posts and messages carefully, comment or reply with questions, and do it for at least five different people every day. Use your posts and updates to ask more questions of your friends and followers.

Another important skill we should develop is to discuss what matters to others before presenting our own agenda. What the world needs more of — what Carnegie espoused 75 years ago — is to utilize “bridge-building dialogue.” You put their interests at the forefront of your interactions. It was said by the power blogger, Valeria Maltoni, “true influence flows from drawing together people with shared interests.”

Lastly, we should always leave others a little bit better than we found them. Ask yourself, how valuable is my relationship with this person? What can you add, besides a smile and a listening ear, to this person’s life?

Another strategy shared by Carnegie and many other experts says that we naturally gravitate towards grins and giggles ... so why not smile more?

The reason smiling is key to new and healthy relationships is that people are more attuned to positive emotions when forming new relationships, according to an article posted on upi.com in May of 2015. Studies also show that those of us who smile more make more friends and beneficial connections, thus adding to our garden of relationships. A smile costs nothing to give and enriches every person it touches. Smile, it increases your face value!

I wonder if Dale Carnegie had any idea how his then newfound thoughts would affect so many, so many years later. This is the perfect season to start tending the garden of your relationships. Start with seeds of association and reciprocity, add ample amounts of goodness, and do not add anything that prohibits its growth. What an abundance you will experience in your life just by sowing fruitful seeds of connection.

Roman Betty Schaaf is a volunteer, a writer, a sojourner and a self-described wellness addict. Betty Schaaf’s email is bettyannschaaf@gmail.com.

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