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5 Secrets a Legend Taught Me About Building Connections

Posted by Cristina Filippo on 06/07/2016
The call finally came.  The call I have been dreading most of my adult life.  Grandma Filippo was gone.  Grandma was 98 years old and lived an amazing life…from picking cotton in Western Oklahoma to having her family surrounding her in the final hours.  She was a giant among her children and grandchildren, infamous in her church and an icon to those who were blessed enough to know her in the community. I hope each of you have had someone in your life who had this type of impact. 
What makes these individuals in our lives so special?  I believe it is the relationships and connections they are able to build over time.  It is that ability to make you feel as if you are the most important person in the room.  I always go back to one of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never let you forget how you made them feel.”   Here are some “secret skills” about building connections I believe grandma perfected over time:
  1. Be curious about others.  Grandma was always asking questions. How are your parents doing?  What did you make for dinner?  What sports are the kids playing this weekend?  Many of us jump into conversations trying to build intimacy by updating people on what we are doing.  The real skill comes in being very curious about others...being unselfish…learning by listening. 
  1. Stay positive and grateful during dark daysThis was a woman who was an orphan by age 9, lost a precious daughter by the age of 40 and said goodbye to an adult grandson 8 years ago. During her lifetime, she had numerous losses and numerous dark days.  She was a fighter and was so resilient!  In her own words she describes the fact that we must remain positive and grateful for each and every day.  Just as a flower is blown by the wind, we have to adapt to circumstances.  Bitterness does no one any good.  Being a stable, emotional force that others can rely on is key.
  2. Understand that people notice how fair and kind you are.  If grandma gave you the gift of pecans from her huge tree out in her back yard, rest assured that every grandchild would be receiving that bag of pecans as well.  If she did notice someone being unkind she was confused – “Why would they do that?” she would ask me.  Be that kind of wonderful.  People notice our behaviors – being fair and kind in all that we do gives others the sense that it is not about them, but about the relationship.
  3. Always be a giver not a taker.  Being generous is one of the greatest traits I believe anyone can possess.  Grandma always had a slice of fresh made pie and a glass of tea waiting for you.  She was constantly visiting friends and loved ones in the at their home or in the hospital.  She was also the person in her Sunday school class (of 60 years!) who would set up the room prior to everyone arriving, have the coffee prepared and a homemade pastries ready to go.  There is nothing better than people knowing how generous you are with your time and resources – no strings attached. 
  4. Tell people how special they are to you.  I was never a granddaughter-in-law to Grandma.  I was introduced as granddaughter.  Do you know how special that is?  It gave the message that I was family.  Always remembering to tell others how much you care and being specific in what you are proud of or excited about in another person’s life is such a gift.
As I often say, I am not teaching you anything you don’t already know, but simply reminding you.  Reminding all of us that leaving a legacy both in the workplace, the community and, most of all, at home is all that any of us can ask for.  Ask yourself these three questions - What will people say about me when I am gone?  When my name comes up what is the feeling that most people will have about me?  Have I left the world better than I when I came into it?

In honor of all of those people in our lives who have so much "grit", here is an inspiring, profound, and courageous perspective on resilience. 
Sheryl Sandberg’s Berkeley Commencement Speech
"You will be defined not just by the things you achieve, but the things you survive—and the person you become." 

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