How should I describe relational equity? Let me give it a try. When Julie and I were buying our home we constantly talked about it building equity. That is, that it would grow in worth over time. Relational equity simply means that someone is growing in worth as it relates to the people in their sphere of relationship and/or influence more and more as time passes.
Relational equity is affected with every interaction you have. If the person you’re connecting with has a positive experience with you, you gain some relational equity. If the person you’re connecting with has a negative experience with you, some relational equity is removed from the relational equity account.
One way to grow your relational equity with others is to know how to converse with people in such a way they feel honored. A few suggestions…
- Be an active listener. That is, when speaking with someone keep eye contact no matter what is happening around you. Really listen, don’t be thinking about what you’re going to say while the person you’re speaking with is talking, listen to what they’re saying. Visually show them that you’re listening by nodding your head when in agreement, shrugging your shoulders when they’re talking about something that is perplexing, etc…
- Know what the goal and timbre of the conversation is and respond accordingly. Too many people lack the sensitivity to pick up on the primary purpose of a conversation and because of this they hijack building relational equity. As I see it there are four types equity building conversations, each of which demand right responses.
1) “I just need to be heard” – In the, “I just need to be heard.”, conversation the person you’re speaking with isn’t asking for input into the situation they’re in or needing your opinion on the matter, they just need a listening ear. That is, they just need an active listener to give them a place to vent. If you do that you’ll gain relational equity. On the other hand, when you verbalize unrequested advice or try to point out their blind spots in the situation, you’ll lose some relational equity.
2) “I need some encouragement” – In the, “I need some encouragement.”, conversation the person you’re speaking with is in need of being reminded that they have gifts and abilities that are making a difference, that they are important to the people around them, and/or that the world is a better place because of them. Be aware that there are two types of people when it comes to this type of conversation. Many people are encouraged enough when you simply tell them they’ve done well or that they are good people. Others need you to verbalize a list of things they’ve done that prove they’re all you say they are.
3) “I’m dreaming a dream.” – In the, “I’m dreaming a dream.”, conversation the person you’re speaking with is verbalizing an idea they might pursue or dream they are beginning to dream. For instance, they may be considering moving into a home for the first time or they might be thinking about going back to college. If you want to remove massive amounts of relational equity during this type of conversation, question the dream they have or become overly practical and tell them why this may not be a wise decision based on past history, financial obstacles, or anything else that bursts their forward thinking bubble. You may want to have that conversation at another time but this is not the time!
- Listen more than you talk. Too many people believe they will build relational equity by proving how much they know. In most instances, the opposite is true. A neighbor of ours once gave me a great compliment through my wife. We had just moved into a new neighborhood and we wanted to meet the folks living around us so we hosted one of those, as we say it in the south, “Ya’all come parties.” Many of the neighbors showed up. About six guys sat around the picnic table for a couple of hours. I was one of the six guys. I listened as one-up-man-ship prevailed, each guy with a bigger tale of what they had accomplished, the next guy interrupting to get a word in edge wise. I listened and chimed in once in a while. The next day one of the guys that was seated around that table said to my wife, “I like your husband and would like to spend more time with him. He listens a lot more than he talks.”