The most extraordinary professional relationships are built by ordinary actions like these.
Professional success is important to everyone, but still, success in business and in life means different things to different people – as well it should.
But one fact is universal: Real success, the kind that exists on multiple levels, is impossible without building great relationships. Real success is impossible unless you treat other people with kindness, regard, and respect. After all, you can be a rich jerk. . .but you will also be a lonely jerk.
That’s why people who build extraordinary business relationships. . .
1 Take the hit
A customer gets mad. A vendor complains about poor service. A mutual friend feels slighted. Sometimes, whatever the issue and regardless of who is at fault, some people step in and take the hit.
They’re willing to accept the criticism or abuse because they know they can handle it – and they know that maybe, just maybe, the other person can’t. Few acts are more selfless than taking the undeserved hit. And few acts better cement a relationship.
2 Step in without being asked
It’s easy to help when you’re asked. Most people will. Very few people offer help before they have been asked, even though most of the time, that is when a little help will make the greatest impact.
People who build extraordinary relationships pay close attention so they can tell when others are struggling. Then, they offer to help, but not in a general “Is there something I can do to help you?” way.
Instead they come up with specific ways they can help. That way, they can push past the reflexive, “No, I’m okay. . .” objections. And they can roll up their sleeves and make a difference in another person’s life. Not because they want to build a better relationship, although that is certainly the result, but simply because they care.
3 Answer the question that is not asked
Where relationships are concerned, face value is usually without value. Often people will ask a different question than the one they really want answered.
A colleague might ask you whether he should teach a class at a local college; what he really wants to talk about is how to take his life in a different direction.
A partner might ask how you felt about the idea he presented during the last board meeting; what he really wants to talk about is his diminished role in the running of the company.
An employee might ask how you built a successful business; instead of kissing up, he might be looking for some advice – and encouragement – to help him follow his own dreams.
Behind many simple questions is often a larger question that goes unasked. People who build great relationships think about what lies underneath so they can answer that question, too.
4 Know when to dial it back
Outgoing and charismatic people are usually a lot of fun . . . until they aren’t. When a major challenge pops up or a situation gets stressful, still, some people can’t stop “expressing their individuality.” (Admit it: You know at least one person so in love with his personality he can never dial it back.)
People who build great relationships know when to have fun and when to be serious, when to be over the top and when to be invisible, and when to take charge and when to follow.
Great relationships are multifaceted and therefore require multifaceted people willing to adapt to the situation – and to the people in that situation.
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