You can’t build a relationship with someone unless there is a commitment. Relationship is different than an encounter.
We have all had both. We have had wonderful encounters with people, over lunch or a cup of coffee, where we exchange our stories and even share some moments of pure connection. But unless we agree to take it to the next level through a shared commitment to do so, we did not build a relationship. We had a nice exchange, which isn’t the basis for anything, but … a one-time, nice exchange.
There is an old fundraising adage that it’s harder to get the first meeting than the gift. I’ve never agreed with that premise. With any degree of initiative, you can get in the door once with almost anyone. It’s getting the second meeting that’s hard.
Consider it from your prospective partner’s point of view. If I am going to give you my most precious resource – my time – then there has to be an awareness that you are going to give me something even more valuable in return for it. There’s risk in that. And uncertainty. If I am using my time in a known way, then there is certainty and comfort. So my decision to commit to you (and to continue to commit to you after the first meeting) must have inherent in it at least a promise of something deeper.
That something deeper to which you and I both commit initiates a whole process of growth and learning and self-discovery, which blossoms by making further commitments (through shared understanding and shared action) that constantly renews and sustains the relationship. We each make these commitments and by doing so discover things we didn’t know about ourselves before, new sources of strength and resources we didn’t know we had.
Relationships do this. They are alive and fuel growth and learning that (ideally) never ends, that only gets deeper as the investment in them builds. Investing in relationships is based on a whole different set of values than investing in transactions.
This commitment to building a relationship won’t be achieved through a casual meeting with a lot of small talk. There must be intentionality put into learning something real about each other, beyond bios, enough that we not only want – but need – to know more.
We will give each other our most precious resource when we are certain that, without this relationship being taken to the next level, something very important might never be discovered.