When you hear the term “relationship building” what comes to mind? Making new friends? Developing professional contacts? Both? Recently I have been diving deeper into understanding my own strengths and weaknesses. Throughout my career relationship building has always been identified as one of my greatest strengths. But what does this really mean?
When I observe relationship building I tend to see two prevailing approaches. One approach is the clear self-serving approach, where the driving force behind the activity is to purely set oneself up for success. This type of person tends to see each potential relationship through the filter of what can they get out the effort and not as a mutually beneficial exercise. In my experience, most people can see through this and really damages the reputation of the person who takes this approach. The feeling of being “used” is hard to overcome.
I used to work with someone who was a nice enough person but they always seemed to ‘rub’ people just this side of the wrong way. They worked hard but their desire to ‘ladder climb’ was fairly obvious and they would approach relationship building primarily out of a necessity to facilitate this drive. When it became obvious that the relationship wasn’t going to benefit them in the near term they would abandon the effort.
The other approach tends to be born from the sincere feeling of wanting to build a bond with another individual. One that is not only mutually beneficial but that is born in the sincerity of truly wanting to get to know the other person and be a resource for them as much as they can be one for you. I truly believe most human beings have an innate ability to tell when someone really cares about them or when someone is just using them.
I have also worked with this type of person and would categorize myself in this way as well. My personality easily lends itself to building strong relationships as I tend to be extroverted and truly enjoy meeting and taking an interest in lots of new people. Success in relationship building I truly believe is founded in sincerity and unselfishness. I think that one really needs to want to help others even if they won’t receive anything in return. The people I observe with the strongest networks are people that take this approach to relationship building. One of my best friends from grad school would bend over backwards to help people succeed and never ask for anything in return. People were so impressed that he now has people all around the world that would help in a heartbeat. Even those who didn’t know him well but know him purely through his reputation are willing to go out on a limb for him all because he took the unselfish approach to relationship building.
How about you? How do you approach relationships? And do you wait until you need something to start building them or is it a constant activity?