Four Principles That I have Applied to Build Relationships Across the World
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 principles 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 to Build Your Relationships
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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Principle 2: Aim to Give Without Asking for Anything in Return
Imagine if, for every sales meeting you set up, you stopped worrying about how you will get to a sale and instead thought, how am I going to help this person. If you just stop worrying about what you can get and instead, focus on what you can give or how you can help. the pressure is off. Now you can really be authentic, be yourself, as we discussed above.
When I coach people on sales or relationships, I always tell them to do the following: Introduce yourself, maybe say something for 30 seconds about your company and then ask the question “What are your goals and what is preventing you from getting there?”
Then sit back and listen.
I promise you will learn more than you every have. Most importantly, you will learn about the pain points and things that your clients need. You can now offer them something. Maybe it won’t be a sale but an offer to introduce them to someone, or an article that may be of value.
You will come out with a better understanding of your prospective customer and they will appreciate you for listening. What happens from there, who knows but you know you made a difference for someone and that’s all that matters.
Principle 3: Learn Every Relationship and from Every Interaction
If you want to give, you must also believe that there is a LOT to learn. That belief will lead you to become 1) intellectually curious and 2) learn from every interaction, every person.
Being intellectually curious
The smartest people I know do one thing better than anyone: They learn on a daily basis. While they may already be recognized experts, they read even when they don’t have time and they always know what’s going on in the world so they understand the environment in which they operate. This “insatiable” appetite to learn comes from an ingrained belief that “you really don’t know anything.” That does not mean that you are not confident, but it’s more a recognition that there is no way anyone can keep up with everything that is going on in the world without learning everyday.
Learning from others
Beyond reading, the best learners believe everyone has something to teach them. They treat every interaction with the same intellectual curiosity with which they treat a research report. They listen, internalize what they hear and evolve their thinking through their myriad conversations.
In terms of building relationships, these two traits work together to allow someone to offer their knowledge and expertise, while at the same time appreciating the perspective and knowledge someone else has to offer.
So what can you do to start to learn every day?
- Read every day…about news in general, about specific topics and areas you are passionate about.
- Identify organizations/experts that specialize in your specific interest areas and stay abreast of research and points of view they present.
- Go outside of your comfort zone to expose yourself to other thinking and other areas that may be adjacent.
- Meet people with different perspectives and just listen. Appreciate their perspective and point of view and try to understand where they are coming from.
Principle 4: Link, Engage and Build a Position of Influence Across Your Relationships
There is no linear path to business. It’s important to get connected in directly relevant but also adjacent spaces to learn, connect the dots and build a position of influence and a personal brand.
- Start with your clients and others you’ve connected within your current clients – meet with your most immediate clients to get to know them better. Also meet with others you may have connected with or want to connect with. Read up and learn about what’s going on in their organizations
- Get involved in outside groups: (1) Start small, attend a meeting; get involved in a workgroup; (2) Connect with directly relevant groups to learn about issues/challenges; Connect with adjacent groups
- Build a personal brand – Over time, use your contacts, events, accolades as a way to position yourself as a thought leader, as an advisor, as a resource.
These principles taken individually aren’t earth shattering or a surprise. But practiced together and consistently can help you build your relationships beyond anything you can imagine.
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