How To Build Relationships That Matter

A version of this article originally appeared on and was graciously provided by Paula Black. Paula is one of the world’s leading business and professional development coaches for lawyers, entrepreneurs & service providers, award-winning author & speaker.

Looking back over my career, I can trace much of the success that I’ve had to a single source: relationships. I’ve coached and interacted directly with hundreds of professionals over the past decade and I can tell you that the same is true for most of them. Relationships are the currency of success in
business and professional life.

This hasn’t changed in the digital age. Websites, social media, and digital marketing — none of these tools are a complete substitute for relationships with real people. 

So, let’s talk about how to create and develop relationships that truly matter in your professional life. Here are four tips that will help you master this critical skill:

Be authentic. 

The strongest relationships develop when both people can be themselves — genuinely and authentically. Many professionals feel that they have to put on an “act” or a “show” when developing relationships — that they have to fit inside a box or conform to certain expectations.

Let me tell you from experience: You can’t build deep, lasting relationships until you’re comfortable being yourself. Don’t be afraid to step outside of the box. Get involved in hobbies that you’re passionate about. Pursue causes that really matter to you. You’ll be surprised at the relationships you develop along the way — genuine, authentic relationships built on common ground and shared values. These are the best kind of relationships.

Be present. 

One of the best gifts you can give to someone is simply listening to them. Being a good listener is one of the most important skills to master when it comes to building relationships. Being a good listener means learning to be present —focused on the moment, on the conversation that’s happening, and not distracted by the next event on your calendar or the meeting you’re dreading the next morning. Develop the skill of active listening and use it while building relationships. It will make an impact.

Be realistic.

One of the biggest mistakes that well-intentioned professionals make is spreading themselves too thin. Strong relationships have depth to them — and it takes an investment of time and energy to create that depth. You simply can’t create deep relationships everywhere you go, every day of the week. Instead, you need to be realistic and intentional.

Identify a handful of key relationships that you want to develop and focus on those. For example, rather than attending 10 networking events every month, focus on one or two organizations that really matter, and go deep into those environments. Set yourself up for success by being realistic — don’t spread yourself thin. Instead, be intentional and focus your time and energy.  

Be selfless.

The quickest way to undermine a relationship is by approaching it with a “what’s in it for me?” mindset. As you begin to develop relationships, look for opportunities to give before you ask for anything. What problem can you help your new friend solve? Who can you introduce them to? What opportunities can you help them to find? No doubt, strong relationships will benefit both parties — but don’t start the relationship with the expectation to get something out of it.

Be authentic. Be present. Be realistic. Be selfless. Master these four skills and you’ll see your relationships deepen and grow — and your professional life will be better off for it. And I promise you — some of them will become lifelong friends.

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