We were on friendly terms with the family who lived in the house before – but didn’t see much of them, and couldn’t say we knew them well at all. In our busy lives, we often went for days and weeks without seeing each other and as time flew by, the opportunity to connect seemed to fade.
We were determined to do things differently this time. We wanted to welcome our new neighbours, to find out more about them and to let them know about us before we slipped into nods across the fence! So we invited them round and spent a very pleasant evening in gentle, rambling conversation over a bottle or two.
We exchanged stories, questions and information about who we were – our family, where we work, what we love and hate to do, holidays, music, interests and the neighbourhood. We shared stories of funny and sad times and discussed hopes for the future. There were surprising moments of connection and common interest; shared beliefs, loves and spooky coincidences as well as differences, new ideas, and unexpected opportunities.
We offered help with identifying plants in their garden, received a surplus slide for our grandkids, swapped spare keys and talked about cat feeding/dog sitting.
I hope that we have started to create the foundations for a stronger relationship both socially and, maybe, in the future where there are times of need where we will need joint decision-making.
It was refreshing to hear of our neighbours’ hopes and excitement about moving into their first home together, of plans for their careers and their enthusiasm for the road we have lived in for over twenty years. As we talked about the locality, sharing tips about places to eat, drink, shop, walk and so on, I started to see our area through new eyes, with a growing sense of appreciation – of both our in-depth local knowledge and what a great place it is to live. The whole experience created something new, and conversations and feelings I had never expected.
For me, this interaction is a great example of the Contacting we encourage in the Oasis Seven Stage Model, where relationships are built, connections made, assumptions uncovered and a meaningful rapport created.
Listening to each other, being genuinely curious and learning more through questions, stories and conversation can be mutually beneficial – deepening our relationship beyond the surface details of ‘who, what and when’ to glimpse the people beneath. To see and show more of who we really are, our beliefs and values, our strengths and weaknesses and to meet each other in genuine trust and openness, built through paying attention to our first meetings makes us vulnerable but also accessible to others.
And, as we build rapport, we are setting the scene for more openness and honesty through authentic and mutual relationship. Whether our interactions are for work or business, family or neighbours, it is a sound investment for the future, and can be surprisingly enjoyable in the moment. Such conversations are easy enough for some people, and more challenging for others, but this model gives us a framework for thinking about how we meet new people and to build new relationships actively.