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Building solid relationships is a key part of being successful at work and beyond. Just think of the people you know who are successful. Most likely, they have an ability to create and sustain connections. But don’t just take my word for it. A Harvard study found that 85% of professional success comes from people skills, so it should come as no surprise that it’s impossible to have true success in all facets of life without building and sustaining outstanding relationships.

Relationships are at the heart of working, creating communities, driving change, and having a healthy self-image. The most critical relationship we each have is the one that we have with ourselves. Without a positive relationship with ourselves, every other relationship we have is in jeopardy. The best relationships are built on vulnerability and an openness to show our weaknesses, and this is true whether the relationship is with a colleague, spouse, relative, or friend.

Build Strong Relationships and Reap the Benefits

Equally important is that people who build great relationships always look for the positive in the world and in others. They want the best for the people they know and celebrate their successes. Here are five ways to create genuine connections that matter.

  • Act on the intent to do something nice for others. The key is to not just think about other people, but to act on those thoughts. Consciously and continually contribute to others’ quality of life in a meaningful way. This can be a genuine compliment, a thoughtful note, or passing along something you know they’re interested in and would be excited to receive. The habit is thinking about what other people would want and what you can give. People tell us it’s important to listen and pay attention. Remembering the things that are important to others is a simple starting point. The approach is to give more than you take. The motto of this habit is simple: giving is living.
  • Intuitively support others, especially when the need isn’t obvious. When we lose a loved one, the support that friends provide is often never forgotten. The value of the relationship we feel can’t be overstated. People who build exceptional relationships, however, pay special attention to the lives of others so they can tell when they’re struggling or going through a tough time – even when it isn’t as obvious as losing a loved one. They have a so called “empathy sensor” on high alert to notice the little things that might be distracting people they care about. When they notice something is up, they show up, step up, and intuitively know what to do to let the other person know they’re not alone. They don’t do this because they want to build better relationships, but because they care.
  • Be happy when others succeed. The unhealthy competition we feel when we’re young – for grades, sports, recognition, making the team or club, and for being accepted – can easily slide into adult life. The habit of celebrating the success of others, instead of being jealous that their success is not your own, can be immediately felt by the people experiencing success. Ask a good friend, or just ask yourself: “Who do you think is truly happy for your success?” It’s stunning how quickly an answer will come. You just know. The habit of great relationship builders is to embrace an abundance mentality and to be just as happy for the success of others as if it were your own!
  • Be actively curious about what other people think. Being curious about what others think means you suspend your opinions and conclusions to thoughtfully consider those of others, especially when they’re different and diverse. Loosening your grip on your point of view and exploring the whys, whats, and hows of what others think requires discipline – and it’s a habit of the best relationship builders. Most of us are too busy thinking about what we want to say next to really listen to what the other person is saying, but when we do listen, we build powerful relationships.
  • Take responsibility for more than you deserve. Relationships and life get easier when you learn to accept the apologies you never got. A colleague once summed it up this way: “Being in relationships is more important than being right.” A friend feels slighted; a customer complains about a service; an argument has many changing pieces. It’s better to be in relationship than to be right, and this means that whatever the issue, and regardless of who is at fault, some of the best relationship builders step in and take the hit. Few acts are more selfless than taking an undeserved hit.

What’s your number one tip for building strong relationships?

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