Have you ever looked at people with envy, because they seem to get along with everyone they meet? Those people are probably very much aware of the importance of good relationships for success in business.
At work, you simply can’t afford to be picky about the people you build relationships with. Whether it’s your colleagues, your boss, or anyone else you have to work with to get things done. If you work for a corporate company like I do, you’ll recognise the need for building and having those relationships. Knowing someone, even if it’s just vaguely, can make a huge difference in pushing things over the line, getting approvals, or simply get things moving.
You’ll meet people with whom building a relationship feels like a breeze. You’re completely aligned, have similar opinions and you just click! With others, it might be a bit harder. Maybe your personalities clash or you think this person should just mind their own business.
You’re better off when you know a lot of people and actually have a good relationship with them. Yes, also with the people you wouldn’t naturally ever go near to. You never know when you’ll need each other! This may sound very opportunistic (and in one way it is), but I find that having good relationships at work makes me feel less stressed, I get more done and I don’t waste negative energy over feeling annoyed with someone. I’m not going to tell you that I never come across someone who’s just not a match. This doesn’t happen often, but when it happens, it costs me a lot of energy and it will take me a long time to get over it.
How to build those relationships without feeling fake?
Of course, you don’t need to become best friends with everybody you meet. When you really click with someone, those relationships and even friendships will develop naturally overtime and don’t need special tricks. But for those that you’re not sure about how to approach them, I’ve listed the top 5 tips and tricks that have helped me to effectively build relationships over time.
1. Approach every person you meet with an open mind
Most of the times it’s you getting in the way of yourself don’t liking someone. One of my colleagues always says it’s usually something about yourself that makes you dislike a person.
So, get over yourself and approach every person you meet with an open mind, no matter the things you’ve heard about them, what clothes they’re wearing or how they’re talking.
2. Ask questions
When you meet a new person, there’s usually some room for small talk before the meeting starts, whether it’s on a (conference) call or a face-to-face meeting. Ask the other person a question, for example “what are you working on?” or “any plans for the weekend?” when it’s a Friday, “have you had a good weekend?” on a Monday. Try to get a glimpse of personal information. Someone might reply: I’ve planned a cycling trip of 80 kilometres this weekend. Aha! Now you know this person likes cycling, you have valuable information at hand. Kids are usually also a topic people love to talk about, but some people might need some time before they open up about their family.
There’s no point in asking questions if you don’t listen to the answer. With listening I mean actively listen to the answer, and ask a follow-up question if possible. Make sure that you do NOT draw the conversation to yourself with every answer someone gives – balance this out carefully. You want to avoid that their image of you is that you talk a lot, mainly about yourself.
4. Remember and follow-up
This is where the further relationship building comes in. Once you’ve had this small talk conversation and spent a couple of minutes chatting about any topic that’s not the meeting, you’re on your way to success. But: make sure you remember the answers they gave to your questions! This way, you can follow up with them on it next time you talk to each other.
I have to admit, I’m not always great at this and tend to get ages of children and holiday destinations wrong, but even then, it does the trick. People feel flattered you ask them about something that’s important to them and we humans just LOVE to talk about ourselves! And it’s totally okay to cheat here. I’ve heard stories of people taking notes which they’ll glance over right before they meet the person again, so that they’ll always have their facts straight. I find this a little extreme, but who knows in the future!
5. Be sincere
Depending on what type of person you are, it might take you some time to train yourself on my advice in point 1 (approach everyone with an open mind). The same might be the case with this one. People will always be able to tell if you’re sincere or not, and you will feel like it’s all fake yourself as well. Train yourself, and reflect why you found it difficult to be sincerely interested in a person. Of course, everyone has their off-days, and that’s okay.
I hope this was helpful! As a natural introvert, I had to get used to this need of building relationships, having conversations with everyone I meet and also leveraging the relations I’m building. I used one of my strengths – a strength many introverts have – to get started: listening! Once people know you’re a good listener, they open up more to you, and before you know it you have found common ground and a blossoming relationship!
How are you building relationships with others? How important is having good relationships in your job to move forward?