When I was younger, people always described me as a social butterfly. I was that kid who frequently got in trouble for talking too much or distracting others in class. (Anyone else?) Rather than spending my time reading textbooks, I socialized.
Unfortunately, I grew up thinking my disposition for social interactions was a negative trait, and I didn’t realize its importance until almost a decade into my career. After many years, I’m now proud of my social butterfly designation, and I consider it one of my superpowers!
Building relationships is one of the most important things you can do for your career. Whether you’re an employee at a company or an entrepreneur, you can’t escape from dealing with people, and the relationships you build (and maintain) can positively impact your career. But in this increasingly polarized world, sometimes it seems impossible to find common ground and build meaningful relationships with people, especially at work.
The good news is that with an open mind and a willingness to learn from different perspectives, anyone (social butterfly or not!) can build rapport and develop lasting and fulfilling relationships with people of all walks of life. Of course, I’m not saying you have to be best friends with everyone, but building strong relationships of all kinds is essential as you navigate your career.
Here are 7 tips for building strong professional relationships:
1. Find common ground by listening
I’m a firm believer that you can find common ground with just about anyone. Listening intently to what the other person is saying is vital in building trust and rapport. When you listen between the lines, you are more likely to find the real meaning of the message—and this is where the magic happens. Most people want to be understood and make connections with others, after all. Also, don’t underestimate the power of small talk. These seemingly unimportant encounters can lay the groundwork for deeper relationships.
2. Take an interest in their stories
I don’t know about you, but I love stories! One of the best ways to learn is from other people’s experiences. Listen and ask questions. Get to know their motives, passions, challenges. After all, people are fascinating, and most enjoy talking about themselves. Ask them about their career goals, their career experiences, and why they chose their chosen profession. I can guarantee you’ll learn something you didn’t know before. I know I always do.
3. Be vulnerable and authentic
Meaningful connection happens when you let your guard down, and you are truly yourself. Being vulnerable is hard, but it’s one of the best ways to build strong connections with others. I have formed deep and impactful relationships when I remove the façade and show my true self. And let me tell you, it feels so good!
4. Be open to diverse perspectives
There’s a lot of talk about diversity right now, but is it being fully embraced? Recognizing someone’s differences and focusing on their strengths will help you understand their experiences and beliefs, even if they are different than yours. You don’t have to agree with everyone on everything to build strong relationships. Remember, there’s always another point of view, and you never know—people might surprise you.
5. Be of service
Do you remember how you felt last time someone helped you with something? Lending a helping hand to someone in need is a great way to build a connection. You show support and build trust when you are of service, two strong pillars of relationship building. The gesture can be as small or as big as you want it to be. All that matters is that’s it’s genuine.
6. Put yourself in their shoes
When you’re empathetic, you are attuned to what people are going through, which is essential in building strong connections. Everyone is going through something! Showing empathy can also help you become more self-aware, which is imperative in social interactions and building connections.
7. Share your story
There’s something powerful (and freeing!) about sharing your story with others. After all, storytelling is one of the best ways to make connections. Whether you share your story with a colleague or incorporate it into a business pitch, you are instantly creating a connection with another human being. You never know what kind of impact you can make unless you open up. Remember, your story matters!
How do you build strong relationships? What has helped you in building rapport and making lasting connections with others?