He looks in her eyes. She smiles. Nothing is outwardly amiss, but her world has suddenly changed. Her heart feels the power of this new connection. And then there are words. Simple words of appreciation, admiration and care. This glance and these words create myriad touch points and open up new ways for mutual trust and sharing.
Can this chemistry work in other relationships? How can we use the human capacity to love to build trust with our volunteers, donors or non-profit partners? How can we inspire them to move mountains?
In her now viral NYT article, To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This, Mandy Catron described the famous experiment created by the psychologist Arthur Aron who successfully applied a simple set of 36 questions and made two strangers fall in love in his laboratory. Hard to believe? Well, Catron actually followed his advice and the same thing happened to her.
In the experiment, two strangers who have never met each other are seated face to face and respond to a series of personal questions, ranging from simple to more intimate. (They never cross the line, though.) Just questions. According to Dr. Aron’s research, these questions trigger “self-expansion” and allow access into our securely guarded world.
Is this all, you wonder? Well, there’s one more trick that seals the connection: eye contact. After answering these questions, the couple needs to stare silently into each other’s eyes. How long?
Just four minutes. That’s right, just four minutes. In this invisible emotional exchange, we drop our usual masks and become vulnerable.
For Cotren, the experiment helped her realize that “love is an action.” As she notes from her own falling-in-love experience, “it’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.”
And why don’t we? Why don’t we ask more thoughtful questions of each other? Why don’t we show appreciation or express our gratitude for what others give us so generously?
The point is that Dr. Aron’s principles may also be applied in our daily interactions with our customers, volunteers, and donors. Imagine how much more meaningful your conversations with your partners will be.
To create strong and lasting connections with our counterparts, we just need to follow three simple steps:
- Listen to understand, and not to hear what you want to hear. Every word has deep meaning. Find the key to your listener’s heart in silence.
- Appreciate your counterpart as a unique human being who brings special meaning to the world around us and to your life.
- Be grateful for this opportunity to discover new qualities and talents in this person. Your life is enriched by this connection.
The next time you meet with your non-profit partner, think about the ways that you could compliment his or her work. Remember, no one is obliged to do anything for your organization. Your desire to better understand your counterparts will pay back richly, but only if you listen to understand.
Appreciate your donors not only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Why not call them on Valentine’s Day and tell them how much their love for your organization matters? On any day, surprise them with an unexpected call, stop by and visit them if you are in the neighborhood. Show your appreciation for them. That will go a long way.
Casually meet with your volunteers. Ask about their challenges, and listen. What is happening in their busy lives? How can YOU help them? Be gracious by giving yourself to them. Now that makes for a powerful bond.
And what about that eye-to-eye contact, you ask? My advice is to keep it slightly less than 4 minutes. Why?
Well, you never know what might happen next…
Andrey Gidaspov is a published author, fundraiser, and a passionate “dot connector.” He is passionate about connecting people and ideas, creating new social ventures and helping non-profits find new funding streams. Follow him on Twitter (@AndreyGidaspov) and check out his blog (www.gidaspov.com) for more useful tips on creativity, innovative marketing and fundraising.