Someone came up to me a few months ago and asked, “How do you become friends with people so quickly?” I was really surprised by the question, because I had never thought about it. So I decided to better understand not only how I build relationships, but how the best of the best do it, so I could impart any wisdom I’d gleaned to others. My work led me to a simple four-part framework on “Building Genuine Relationships.”
Why “genuine” relationships? To me, building genuine relationships is very different from “networking.” I’ve always felt “networking” implies “transactional” relationships where people seek out each other with some pre-conceived agenda in mind. The simplest and most common example: We go to a happy hour or “networking” event hoping we will meet some people because it will lead to some business.
On the other hand, building genuine relationships starts with NO agenda. Of course we focus on opportunities where we meet people who have some mutual interests. But it starts with a basic premise that meeting people will help us expand our knowledge, learn from others and maybe others will learn something from us in the process.
So how do you build genuine relationships? Below are my four key principle that I’ve gleaned from my own experience as well as all that I’ve learned from others:
Principle 1: Be Authentic, Be Yourself
Principle 2: Aim to Give Without Asking for Anything in Return
Principle 3: Learn Every Day and from Every Interaction
Principle 4: Link, Engage and Build a Position of Influence
THE FIRST PRINCIPLE: BE AUTHENTIC, BE YOURSELF
Think about it…would you rather meet a “real” person or someone who is trying to present some type of character to impress you. It’s easy. People like to meet real people, not some cardboard figure that is going to pitch a story. The first principle to building long-lasting and genuine relationships is to just be yourself. No agenda. No persona that is different than the real you. Just be yourself and be genuine. It just requires confidence in yourself and an attitude that the real you is interesting and has something real to offer. Below are a few quick tips you can start practicing today:
- Being yourself starts with staying true to your values and your passions. Give people insight into what motivates you, what makes you get up in the morning—or honestly—what pisses you off. People love passion and when you can demonstrate that with emotion, it will no doubt win people over.
- Being authentic also means being able to share personal stories that give insight into who you are and how you practice your values. For example, I’ve told many people about a time I requested a client cancel my contract because I thought we were just wasting their time and money.
- Finally, building genuine relationships also means learning about the other person, not as a “check the box” exercise, but because you really care about who they are as a person. Ask questions about what they do and where they come from. But get beyond the small talk. Probe and try to understand to the extent a person is willing to offer. It doesn’t mean prying into anyone’s business, it just means trying to better understand people and learning from them.
These tips are neither revolutionary nor extremely insightful. But I’m surprised at how few people practice them.
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