My mother has advanced heart failure and mild dementia. Her care needs have increased in the past few weeks, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with her. The other day, television news reports of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing jolted my mother’s memories from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. She may not have been able to remember if she’d eaten dinner or taken her medicine that night, but she could recall in great detail stories about numerous lunches with RBG.
During that time period, Marty Ginsburg was a frequent and favorite speaker at the Southern Federal Tax Institute’s annual meetings in Atlanta, and my father was on its board of directors. Ruth occasionally attended as Marty’s “guest.” As the spouse of a board member, my mother often helped entertain speaker’s spouses and plan events for the other wives attending the institute. Mother said Ruth was a challenging wife to entertain because she didn’t like the shopping outings the other wives preferred, was smarter than all of them, and was just different. Mother often ended up having lunch with Ruth because they shared a common interest—a love of opera. While they never became best friends, a simple shared interest provided a pleasant annual lunch outing for two women with otherwise very different lifestyles and interests.
In Setting the Table, Union Square Hospitality Group founder Danny Meyer says, “It’s human nature for people to take precisely as much interest in you as they believe you’re taking in them. There is no stronger way to build relationships than taking a genuine interest in other human beings and allowing them to share their stories.” In order to find out what interests people and what you may have in common, he recommends ABCD – always be collecting dots. He adds, “Dots are information. The more information you collect, the more frequently you can make meaningful connections that can make other people feel good and give you an edge in business.” Collecting dots improves your interactions with others and even allows you to connect the dots to others in your networks.
With COVID restrictions still impacting our ability to physically interact, it’s even more important to be intentional and deliberate with our personal and professional interactions, to tap into our intellectual curiosity and really listen for those dots. You might have mostly different interests and life experiences than some clients and colleagues, much like my mother and Ruth, but that doesn’t have to stop you from fostering meaningful connections. If you ask good questions and listen, your clients, prospects and colleagues will give you the dots you need to make connections and build better relationships.