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Seeking Understanding to Build Relationships

By Charles Brennan Jr.

I’ve written previously about self-reflection and taking inventory of one’s skill set. Specifically, what skill we possess today that has already or will soon become obsolete; and what skill we need to improve upon or develop to replace the lost skill?  Both are essential to navigating the current environment.

But taking a deeper dive, let’s also look at how today’s reality requires that we reevaluate how we build and maintain interpersonal relationships and where we can put these skills to work.


Connections Matter

Relationships are fundamental to both our personal and professional lives. However, if we’re honest, even pre-pandemic, a number of our relationships with our “closest” colleagues, clients, even family and friends, could be somewhat superficial.  With restrictions now in place for limited contact and time, relationship building has become even harder, redefining how we really “know” someone.


Time to Shift Our Approach

We’ve all been taught the importance of “building relationships.” Building deep connections with people is more challenging in the virtual world, but it’s not impossible. To flourish in today’s environment, our focus needs to turn to “building understanding.”

Understanding denotes more than knowing peripheral information about an individual. Understanding is learning the drives, initiatives, core values and motivations of a person. To compete in today’s environment, it’s essential that we move beyond the “chit chat” that can consume the beginning of a conversation. Delving deeper into understanding will enable us to know what a person wants to achieve while creating a greater trust, reliance and confidence.


Discussion vs. Dialogue

This repositioning requires engaging at a higher level of communication. To engage at this level, you need to understand the difference between recital discussion and meaningful dialogue.

Recital discussion simply requires the recipient share what they already know without contemplation. A meaningful dialogue challenges the recipient to stop, reflect and re-evaluate their thoughts. This is known as engaging an individual in critical thinking. Incumbent on achieving this level of communication is the importance of knowing how to craft conversations that elicit this type of response.

Beyond knowing how to ask the right question, you also need to be prepared for what to do with the answer. Simply put, asking a question for the sake of a question is and has always been an insufficient way to communicate. For example, how often have you been in a situation where someone introduces a topic of conversation, such as travel, just so they can tell you all about their trip?

In addition, further exploration of a person’s response is essential not only to obtaining a clearer understanding, but also to showing genuine interest in what they have to say. Stay focused on the person’s answers with a series of thoughtful, even intuitive, follow-up questions. Have a plan for the conversation – a roadmap if you will for a better discussion.



Having a plan for a more meaningful conversation will lead to unique opportunities that gain greater insight into a person, personally and professionally. Something to be strongly considered in today’s largely virtual environment.


Charles Brennan Jr. is president of Brennan Sales Institute and author of Take your Sales to the Next Level. Email Charles at

Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network (LTEN)

About Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network (LTEN)

The Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network ( is the only global 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization specializing in meeting the needs of life sciences learning professionals.

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