In this interview, we had the opportunity to talk to Tony Fahkry, an author, speaker, and personal life coach from Australia. In this interview we explore how deeper relationships start by knowing yourself. Tony shares personal stories, client experiences, and several thought provoking questions to help you become a better relationship builder.
You can learn more about Tony and his work at tonyfahkry.com.
In case you prefer to simply listen: SoundCloud: How Deeper Relationships Start by Knowing Yourself with Tony Fahkry
Links to Tony’s books and online course. Transcript of the video included below.
Tony’s course: How To Build Powerful Relationships
Awaken Your Authentic Self
The Power to Navigate Life
Reconstructing the Past to Create a Remarkable Future
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into coaching.
It started many years after working as a personal trainer. That was my introduction into coaching, and prior to that I spent many years in the fashion industry. The intro to personal training was really a career change from the fashion industry. Then one day a client asked me to speak at a corporate event, so it really grew from speaking and then into coaching.
So you started in the fashion industry, what was the moment that made you switch?
The switch came when my father passed away from type 2 diabetes going on 2 decades ago. This event started my quest or search to answer the question, “Why do some people die and others maintain a long and healthy life?”
My father was fairly young, immigrated from the Middle East to Australia and that was a complete change in his life, so I was just trying to understand that dynamic. Through his death, I started moving into the personal empowerment track and I really wanted to learn how I could put these two avenues together [personal empowerment and health and well being] and really help people to enrich their lives.
What’s something that you learned along this journey?
I’ve interview thousands of people along this journey, and through those stories and people came my first book, “The Power to Navigate Life”. The thing that continues to ring true is that “Your past does not dictate your future”. And even though it sounds like a cliche, there is a lot of truth to it.
We often believe that because we’ve had an illness or a failure or a failed relationship or failed business that that is going to dictate our life and our future. Usually that’s just a stepping stone. Our past is just a symptom of our past behavior, like a headache is usually a symptom of needing to drink more water. But if we keep bringing it into the present moment, it’ll become a disease.
Do you have any personal stories on how relationships helped you get to where you are?
While I can’t recount any particular story, I’ve have an incredible amount of mentors and coaches, so I can’t really say it’s been just one person. It’s been about having a team of people. About 3 years ago, I had a business mentor that helped me start a course that became a book. Even children… I have nephews and nieces, and they help teach you how to be grounded and stay in the present moment. So everyone is a teacher. It’s just a matter of “Are you willing to learn and are you open to learn from them?”
So, do you recommend we build relationships with certain types of people to keep us “in check”?
They often say that you are the sum of the 5 people you surround yourself with. So if we only surround ourselves with childhood friends who are toxic, it can be difficult to let go of those friends.
It’s really just being mindful of the company you keep and how they influence your life either personal or professional. You can ask, “Are they contributing to your growth?” as well as “Are you contributing to their growth?”
They often say that relationships are about two meeting points. The problem with that analogy, is that if one fades away, then relationship crumbles, but I like to think of it more like a union. So that if one side fades away, you’ve got the other person there to help bring that relationship back together. There certainly is a meeting point at the beginning, but then they are about melding together.
How do you see that thought process for “loose ties” or just friends of friends?
All relationships serve a purpose, even if they’re transient or intermittent. People come into your life for a season or a reason, but it’s about not attaching ourselves to the relationship.
I was in a busy cafe the other day when a waitress dropped a mug, and I shared a glance with another person there, and there wasn’t even a smile, but there was a moment of shared experience together and we both recognized it and it’s awesome to just feel and say “Wow, this is a shared moment with a person.” Yet this same idea can be deeper with friendships or relationships.
And what I think often stops us from engaging in those relationships or moments of shared experience, is that we bring some level of past conditioning. You’re bringing your stored memories and, in turn, stored emotions. So when two people come together, we’re always bringing our so called baggage to the relationship from the beginning, but we really need to be mindful of that baggage, and still interact in the present moment.
There’s a great book by Susan Jeffers titled Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. We need to feel our pain, yet we need to be mindful when we’re still interacting with others.
Do you have a particular process you use to help people develop their higher potentials? How do you incorporate relationships (personal and professional) into that process?
When working with clients, we focus on working to understand if there are any limiting beliefs. Are there any stories or narratives that they believe about themselves? So I really focus on asking questions and trying to shine a light on their own beliefs. I work to draw on their own wisdom by asking powerful, engaging questions. We’ve got to learn to come home to ourselves and be more self inquisitive. And you can even ask yourself, “How am I feeling today?” “How is my work relationship going?” You don’t have to have an answer right away, but you should be asking yourself the question.
So you mentioned limiting beliefs, are there any ones that you’ve noticed are repetitive or any themes? Or in regard to relationships?
Usually the limiting beliefs stem from some sort of fear that things that have happened in the past are sure to happen again in the future. So what I really do is help clients understand the mechanisms of how we think.
We are meaning making machines and try to associate meaning to our own lives. It helps us discern if there is imminent danger or safety. So those thoughts are there to protect us. But we need to understand how those beliefs affect our present behavior. So if you were hurt in a relationship in the past, then our natural mechanism is to build a wall.
So if we look at it from self compassion, kindness, and empathy, we’re preserving our well being, but if we look at it from relationships, that wall can actually prevent us from developing intimate or closer connections. So mindfulness is understanding this past and then forgiving ourselves so that we don’t have to carry this limiting belief with you into the future.
It’s funny how this conversation started with how to build relationships, but it’s really more about how well do you understand yourself. And I believe it to be fundamental.
Absolutely. The old greek stoics and ancient masters stressed knowing thyself and loving yourself because if you don’t understand and love yourself first, how are you going to understand and love others?
How do you personally leverage relationships to achieve your own goals? How do you recommend others do the same thing?
A story comes to mind about a woman that I’ve been coaching for about 4 years. I’ll call Sarah. She was having a really terrible time dealing with harassment in the workplace. There’s a word in Australia called “Blokey” meaning that it’s really masculine and it was quite dominated by the sense of blokeyness and she felt it difficult to move about the company, so she left and when she moved to the new company, she brought her experience with her to this new law firm.
The culture was much more open and friendly. But because she brought this baggage with her, she found it difficult to form relationships sometimes especially with her boss. Sometimes her boss would come in and question her on certain matters, and she really got her back up during those times.
In our sessions we really had to focus on her limiting beliefs and that those old experiences with the other law firm aren’t guaranteed to happen now or in the future because her past need not predict her future.
In that story you can directly see how her first experience led to her fear of a second, similar experience. I can only imagine how distant past experiences may be shaping our current day beliefs that we may not even be aware of.
They are safety mechanisms and frankly they’re normal, so understand that it’s okay and it’s normal to feel this way. My coaching was to help her see why it’s normal and to help her relax and realize that things are okay and things are happening as they should. Then you can bring that relaxed nature to the present and not bring the baggage along with you.
To add to that, I can sometimes pick up on other people’s anxiousness or irritation and it can throw me off or even vice versa, and in the those moments I realize that I just need to chill.
That’s right! Body language is a huge aspect as well, and people can intuit those emotions. Like if someone is crossing their arms or has a scowl on their face or not looking in your direction. These are things that we pick up, and if we have our own filters, we’re clashing with the other person. So you just need to chill out, just relax, understand that it’s okay, and that there’s nothing to prove. You needn’t get an outcome out of this interaction or this relationship. Just let it evolve. It’s okay if it does or if it doesn’t.
So how do you best leverage relationships to help yourself get to your own goals.
For me, it’s about being inquisitive and being genuinely interested in people. I really enjoy people and I’m genuinely interested in helping others. One of the more fascinating things is to understand people’s past and how they came to the present day. I’ve thought about writing a book about different people and their stories. When we understand where people are coming from, it softens our approach when engaging with them. For me, it’s about trying to find a “win win” situation.
And this isn’t a new idea. The late Stephen Covey wrote about this in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It doesn’t have to be Lucas wins and Tony loses. Stephen said in his book that if he knows that one person will win and one person will lose, then he will not enter into that relationship to begin with. He always walked into a relationship with people where both people win.
It doesn’t have to be winning new business. It can something as simple as mutually scheduling a meeting that fits both people’s schedule. So it’s about understanding that both people must win.
It sounds like that’s a good way to focus on the right relationships. You can prioritize by focusing on the people that you know will both get a positive outcome from the relationship. Is that what you would recommend to others?
Absolutely, and it starts with being genuinely concerned about other people. It’s about going out your way to help people. My teachings focus on flipping the switch to give more, do more than is required of you, exceed people’s expectation, and I assure you it will come back 10 fold.
So help people first and then you will grow. When you are of service to other people, you develop the character to grow. If you’re the person that’s constantly taking, you’re building this narcissistic character that’s trying to take first.
I have noticed that being helpful and even at a minimum being open to being helpful, has already come back to me in different ways. Combining that with being genuinely interested in other people, it helps facilitate building a better relationship down the road.
To add to that, it’s a sense of “being” in the world. So you become who you are. I often say to people that we need to embody these characteristics that we want from others. It’s not just about strategies. It’s not “How can you do this or do that.” People aren’t responsive to strategies. We need to become the person we want. So if we want to attract more love and kindness in our lives, then we need to be that!
If we become this person, then we attract the same types of people.
Because once you are what you want, you can recognize that in others and truly see what you are looking for. So, If you had to start all over again, how would you go about getting to where you are today?
There are 4 things that I think about if I had to start again:
- I would network more. When I first started out, it was kinda “How can you help me?”, and now it’s about “Hey do we have any mutual interests? Do we like each other?” instead of walking around with your glass of red wine looking for people you think might be able to help you. So when I first started it was about me, and now it’s about understanding if 2 of us will have a shared connection.
- Second would be about being more of service to others. Asking, “How can I be of service to you?”
- Third would be “Be a really good listener”, and I’ve personally done a lot of work on that. We often listen because we have our own agenda. So I would become a really good listener and ask really good questions to understand where others are coming from and what they need.
- Finally, it would be seeking clarification instead of drawing my own conclusions. A lot of times the conclusions I’ve drawn are not what the other person is trying to communicate.
Just to follow up on that. I imagine that you learned a lot of that over time through trial and error. Are there anything you’ve done or any resources that have helped?
I would definitely keep reading about psychology, body language, and how to build relationships. Online courses are fantastic! Within 2 hours, you can learn a completely new topic. So it’s about exposing yourself to new things, learning them, and then going out and trying it.
For example, for me, online courses, working with mentors, and practicing those skills I’ve been learning has been really effective. Instead of looking at my notepad while someone was talking, thinking about the next question, I’d repeat to them what I’ve heard in the form of a question. For instance, “I hear that you’re afraid of being undermined again in your next job. Do I understand you correctly?” And that’s active listening.
I don’t have any final questions. Is there anything else you wanted to share?
In the context of relationships, we need to come to appreciate the fact that what we want to bring to us, we need to be that first. So if we want to build more wholesome relationships, we need to embody those qualities first. And it’s just basic understanding, because if we are already that which we seek, we’ll recognize it when we see it. If you’re emanating love and expressing love, when you meet someone that crosses your path, irrespective of whether it’s an intimate relationship or a colleague, then we’re going to exude that because we’ll recognize it.