Building Relationships Takes Time

February 2, 2012

Every relationship, personal or professional, requires significant investment. The investment includes our time, money, and talent. Those of you who are already great at building relationships know that the process doesn’t stop after you’ve collected the business card. In fact, the process never ends. It requires constant attention. For those of you who are still a bit shy, follow the below tips to build relationships that will have reciprocal benefits for as long as you nurture them.

1. Listen Actively

When at networking events or meeting someone for the first time, always allow him or her to talk first. And keep them talking by asking insightful and thought provoking questions. Be sure to listen intently and try to pick up on non-verbal cues. A non-verbal cue might be that she crosses her arms when talking about something that bothers her. He may smile more than normal when recalling an especially exciting story. Humans need to feel as though they belong to larger groups and getting people to speak openly about their stories will help endear you to him or her. See my other post about active listening here.

2. Take Notes

Be sure to have a pen with you and write down key points about your new contact immediately after you talk. Whether you write them on a business card or notebook, be sure to keep specific information about the person for future reference. If the person gave you his birth date, the number of kids he has, a favorite book, or something he is passionate about, be sure to keep detailed notes. At some point in the future, you will be able to use the information to show appreciation for something he has done for you.

3. Add Value

Because we all live such hectic lives, working six and seven days per week, it is difficult to follow up with your new contact consistently. But you must. From the notes you are keeping on the contact, routinely send her interesting information that is helpful to her life. If you read an interesting story, receive a valuable email, or hear about a job opening, forward it to her with a brief note. It may not take much of your time, but the thought and information will mean the world to building your new relationship.

4. Show Appreciation

First of all, be grateful. I’ve seen too many people in our society go through life with a sense of entitlement as though they deserve whatever they ask for. Anything worth having in life requires hard work, so put in the time necessary to achieve your goals. If one of your relationships provides you with a helpful hint or gift, be sure to go above and beyond in showing appreciation. There are few better feelings than knowing that you did something good for someone and that they appreciate it. Make sure you give your new contact that feeling. Send her a hand-written card, return with an in-kind gift, or refer her to a new business opportunity. There are so many ways to show appreciation. Take the time to do it well.

5. Read Between the Lines

As you continue to develop the relationship, pay very close attention to the stories of successes and mistakes your contact has made. Learn from their experiences so that you don’t have to waste time going through the same thing yourself. You will achieve your goals faster. Conversely, share your lessons learned with your acquaintances so that they can be further along in their career as well. Reciprocity serves as a win-win where both parties work together, sharing resources, to achieve goals faster.

6. Have the Right Motives

The relationships that you are building have a foundation of trust. As you know, it takes months or years to develop a lasting, trusting relationship. But, it only takes one wrong move, literally seconds, to lose that trust and ruin the relationship. See my post about personal integrity here. If your motives are switching from doing what is right for the whole to simply what is right for you, you do not have the right motives and are not operating with upstanding character. You cannot focus on how to use the other person for your financial gain, media exposure, or to serve your ego. If you do, you’ll probably end up like Bernie Madoff, Kenneth Lay, or Dennis Kozlowski. Nurture your relationships because you genuinely want to see both parties prosper.

7. Be Proactive

This rule applies to many areas of your life, but is particularly relevant here because relationships are the foundation of your future success. You cannot achieve wealth, emotionally or financially, without the help of those around you. Be confident in yourself and believe that the value you bring to the world will sincerely help those who want it. Exude the confidence when anticipating others’ needs. If you are reading LinkedIn and see that a new contact of yours has just taken a new position, send her a note congratulating her on her achievement. But don’t stop there. If you know of a great book in that field, buy it and send it to her without announcement. Being confident in your actions and giving more than you receive will bring you immense emotional joy.

“The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships.” –Anthony Robbins

As you build meaningful relationships, consider practicing the above steps to make the time spent more rewarding. You can’t measure the quality of life by the money or material things you’ve accumulated. You can’t measure it by the quantity of your relationships (Although expanding your circle of influence isn’t a bad idea). But, you can measure it by the quality and depth of your relationships. Why? Because that is where lasting memories and feelings of gratefulness reside.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather live a life filled with lasting relationships than one filled with houses, cars, planes, and vacations…and no one to share them with.

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