How to Deepen Relationships for Richer Conversations

14.02.2019 |

Episode #8 of the course Mastering your conversations by Jordan Thibodeau


Welcome back!

Yesterday, we learned about like, laugh, listen, and appreciate. Today, we will learn about how we can deepen our relationships to expand the channel of communication, which is the implicitly agreed-upon range of acceptable topics for a conversation.


The Depth of Your Relationship Defines Your Conversation

Your relationships have a range of conversational norms that are deemed appropriate for the relationship. The level of depth of a relationship ranges from unfamiliar, familiar, intimate, and meaningful. The levels are stacked upon each other like a pyramid.



In order to get to the top of the pyramid, you have to give each supporting layer time to harden so it can support the weight of the next level. Each person you know requires a time investment if you wish to increase the depth of the relationship.


Four Levels of the Relationship Depth Pyramid

Unfamiliar (Trust level: non-existent): A stranger, possibly someone you’ve read about, seen around the office, or heard friends mention. Focuses mainly on facts and small talk about work, sports, and what’s on Netflix.

Most of your regular conversations with strangers, acquaintances, or colleagues will fall into this category.

Examples of conversation starters:

• How are you doing?

• How goes your work?

• Doing anything fun this weekend?

• Have you read or watched anything good recently?

Familiar (Trust level: low): An acquaintance you’ve spoken with a few times. Conversations have likely stuck to small talk. Focuses on feelings, goals, and non-polarizing beliefs.

Here, we can seek out advice for things you’re trying to get done. Talk about hobbies and side projects. Usually, you have these conversations with casual friends.

Examples of conversation starters:

• How are things going with that project you were working on?

• I heard you were completing your pilot’s license, how is that going?

• Did you hear Frank landed the promotion?

Intimate (Trust level: medium): You have met this person multiple times or have worked with them. You share information with each other and are willing to help each other out. Your trust in them has limits, but you feel comfortable being candid about some things.

Examples of conversation starters:

• Last time we spoke, you told me you were having an issue with Mark. Was that resolved? Anything I can do to help?

• I’m thinking about [buying or doing something], do you have any advice?

Meaningful (Trust level: high): We talk about our vision for the future, our core beliefs, and our vulnerabilities. You have built enough trust to call the person on their problems to help them grow (tough love) and vice versa. You can talk about small challenges in life (looking for a new gig, trouble at work, relationships, etc.), theories on life, and how to live best. At this level, you learn about what drives that person and what they are trying to achieve. Usually, you have these conversations with your close friends.

Examples of conversation starters:

• I noticed you really have your life together when it pertains to [goals, family, relationships, etc.], and I’m sort of struggling. What do you think I can do to improve?

• Based on what you have said to me, I’ve noticed that you have been struggling with [work, relationships, etc.]. Can we talk more about this? [If they say yes and ask for help:] I have a few things that have worked for me. Is it okay if I shared them with you?

• What do you think about Frank? I’m having an issue with him, and I need your advice on how to resolve this.

• I’m thinking about making a big career move, and I want to know if you had any advice for me?


Moving Up the Pyramid

In order to increase the odds of you reaching the top of the pyramid, it requires developing trust, which is created through familiarity, honesty, and integrity.

Familiarity: How often do you contact this person? Does this person see you on a regular basis? By taking time out of your day to meet with this person regularly, you’re demonstrating to them that you find value in the relationship.

Honesty: Have you been open to this person? You need to be a little vulnerable to this person and share bits about yourself to show them that you are willing to open yourself up to them. If they see that you’re genuine, odds are that they will open themselves up to you too.

Integrity: Has this person asked you to do something? If so, you need to make sure you follow through. Has the person asked you to hold a secret? You will need to hold onto this secret to prove your loyalty to this person.

It takes time to develop all that, and if you rush to climb the pyramid, you will fall off. If you want a real example of this, think about the time you met someone and within the first ten minutes, they had shared all their innermost secrets. Yeah, it’s creepy.


Testing the Waters

What if you don’t know if you can reach a higher level of the pyramid, but you want to at least see if it’s possible? You would phrase your questions without a leading statement. So, instead of saying, “What I really think people should do is [X],” you would phrase it as a question, “What do you think about [X]?” This gives the other person room to either start talking about the subject or not. Either way, it gives them an opening to express their feelings when they are ready, instead of you exposing yourself and risking hurting the relationship. If the person opens up, good—you might be able to move to a higher level. If the person becomes defensive, back off—keep the relationship at the current level.


To Do:

1. Assess your current relationships to see where they land on the pyramid.

2. Of the lower level relationships, have you tried seeing what you can do to move them up a level?

3. Try to move a Level 1 relationship to Level 2. If you get pushback, relent. If it works, proceed to deepen the relationship.

Tomorrow, you’ll learn why arguments are for losers.

Jordan Thibodeau

Conversation Mentor


Recommend book

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey


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