Our model looks at how human interactions can be strengthened in order to develop, nurture and sustain healthy, meaningful relationships that are needed to live our personal and professional lives. In this article we examine one of the elements, depth, more closely.

Why is it that some people have a way of instantly connecting with others, creating a sense of warmth and mutual respect? And why is it that some other people often create a feeling of awkwardness and spark the desire to keep them at a distance?

As highly social creatures we fully depend on our interactions and relationships to thrive if not survive. Even though in many modern societies survival may no longer be an issue if interactions and therefore relationships are few and poor, they still have an enormous influence on how we live and what we are able to accomplish in our personal and professional endeavours.

In a previous article we mentioned that ‘people who are humanly fluent bring a high level of depth to the relationship and interaction, enabling them to truly connect with, relate to, understand and influence others.’ Let’s unpack the concept of Depth further by looking at its four characteristics:

·      Develops authentic, trusting relationships

·      Demonstrates unquestionable respect and interest in others

·      Engages with head and heart

·      Interacts with an open mind

Each of these characteristics come alive in specific attitudes, behaviours and skills. For example, by approaching any interaction with the basic belief that humans all have equal worth often accelerates the connection, creating an equal playing field and an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. Just think about how someone in a service industry role, i.e. a gardener, would act in a transactional master-servant relationship versus a humanly equivalent relationship in which he happens to take care of your garden and you pay him to do it.

Likewise, if one demonstrates the manners and courtesy that are customary in the culture you are in, it will earn you respect and helps build the connection and relationship. For example, think about personally or professionally greeting someone from your own country or organisation. Now imagine yourself greeting a person from our own culture without the courtesy that comes with this ritual. In my case, I would encounter a fellow Dutch(wo)man for the first time without extending my hand, avoiding any eye contact and not saying something like ‘goedemorgen, leuk om kennis te maken’; this would seriously limit my ability to create an initial connection. In fact, he or she would probably think I am rude and not worthy of his/her respect. And yet, aspects to this way of greeting may be the way to go in other cultural contexts. What matters here is that ‘courtesy is the grease in human interaction.’

“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” Albert Einstein

There are various other attitudes, behaviours and skills that will give depth to our interactions. Let us explore a few in this personal story.

The organisation I was working in for a while was draining my energy, going home exhausted on most days. Initially I thought it had all to do with the physical circumstances, things like little daylight and lack of fresh air. Soon I realized that by far most of my interactions were happening at a purely rational level, and all of them were about getting things done. Even a simple ‘good morning’ was often not in the cards. Conversations were very transactional. And I was bringing all of my emotional energy to work only to see it being sucked away.

Key Benefits of Depth

Depth contributes to more meaningful, effective and productive conversations and relationships at home and at work. It accelerates your ability of creating a deeper bond and mutual understanding. Showing your real self, so others understand who you are and what you stand for, invites openness and reciprocity. Engaging people both at a rational and emotional level creates opportunity for greater respect, richer perspectives and stronger commitment. Depth underpins our ability to influence others, and to open ourselves to be influenced by them.

“We believe that transparency is needed to create trust, and it’s also needed to create a dialogue.”  – Julie Sweet

What struck me is that most of my colleagues were used to ‘switching off’ their feelings and appetite to connect on a deeper level; They were just about getting the job done as efficiently as possible. You see, they were under a lot of pressure and stress to perform, with little time to waste.

With our stubborn belief that, in the end, most of us prefer to maintain more than just transactional relationships in the workplace, a colleague and I started engaging people in more personal and balanced conversations. We connected, so to speak, with head and heart. By being fully curious and open to listen to the other’s thoughts, perspectives and feelings we experienced a deeper kind of connection and understanding. And so did the folks we spoke with.

Somehow, the level of interactions and relationships had become rather shallow in this organisation. The factors that led to this lack of depth be as they may, yet when people consciously decide to go deeper something changes. And such change occurs one conversation at a time, and many such interactions lead to a change in relationships and behavioural norms fuelling a culture in which personal relationships matter as they give richer meaning to work and actually lead to higher engagement of people in the workplace. Which, to no surprise, leads to higher performance too.

Challenges with Depth

Charm, charisma, false pretence of being interested, and acting out are some examples of attributes that people may use to create a connection and develop a bond with us. They do this with the aim to earn our respect and trust for whatever reasons, innocent or with malintent. A part from discerning this in others, we ourselves have the choice to interact in authentic ways in service of the relationship and the needs of both parties.

“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world” – George Bernhard Shaw

In this story, the act of expressing genuine interest in others and respecting what others think, feel or need created depth. Also, by engaging both at a rational level and emotional level it allowed us to make the interactions richer, less transactional, well just maybe more normal for people?

For fluency in human interaction you need all of the three elements to be present—depth, discipline and discernment. Just depth may give you and others a lot, however just that will not necessarily enable you to effectively interact with others. If I am unable to understand what is going on in a conversation (discernment) and subsequently incapable of adapting my approach accordingly (discipline), I may not be making the most of my interactions with others.

In the next articles we will take a closer look at discernment and discipline, the other elements necessary to strengthen human fluency. Also we will dedicate a specific article on how depth in our interactions gets impacted by increasing use of digital media and email.


Human Fluency is a company based in The Netherlands and the USA. We believe that people and organisations can fulfil their true purpose and make a greater contribution to this world when they place effective human interaction and behaviour at the heart of what they do every day. We want to help them become more fluent so they can accomplish meaningful and sustainable outcomes.

The Human Fluency™ model stands on the broad shoulders of vast body of publicly available research, experience and knowledge related to communication, interpersonal skills and leadership. We believe it offers is a slightly different way of looking specifically at human interaction, helping people to practically examine and approach their own conversations with fresh eyes.