Are You Building Relationships for Life?

I was reminded this week about the importance of building and maintaining relationships with a long-term perspective. What I mean by that is that too often in business, we look at opportunities to network and meet new people with a sense of “what can I get from this relationship … now.” You know, the old, “what’s in it for me?”

My family often hears me say, “it’s about the journey, not the end goal.” I believe we have to enjoy the day-to-day activities. Otherwise, life is not nearly as rewarding. Once you accomplish that goal, it’s done – now what? As long as you relish the experiences along the way in achieving that goal, you have something to reflect on and learn from. You have memories and experiences that will stay with you for life!

So how does this relate to having a long-term perspective on relationships? For me, it’s taking the time to get to know another person to understand what they’re passionate about, what’s going well, and where they struggle. Not so you can try to sell them something or get something from them, but to make a connection and develop a solid relationship.

In my experience, I’ve built relationships with people and after years of staying connected and taking an interest in their lives, it’s resulted in doing some work together. If I just stopped reaching out after an initial meeting because there was no immediate need for us to work together, I would have missed out on many meaningful relationships.

If meeting and talking to new people doesn’t come naturally to you, here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Listen more than you talk – To do this, it may mean you need to have some good questions to ask, so they are doing the talking. You may want to try some of these: What do you do? What are you enjoying about your work at the moment Any big challenges on the horizon? What’s the next big thing you have coming up? What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?
  • Give more than you take  We’ve all known people who we only hear from when they need something from you. Don’t be that person. It’s about reciprocity. The more you can offer something of value to another person, they are more inclined to be happy to help you out when needed. For example, after you’ve spent time learning about the new person, be thoughtful about who you know, who may have similar interests/work that you could introduce to them. Perhaps it’s as simple as forwarding an article that you think they would find interesting.
  • Make an effort to stay connected  Anything worthwhile takes work. You have to make a conscious effort to reach out to others. When you have small blocks of available time, use it to review your contacts and make a quick call or send a text to check-in with someone you’ve not spoken with over the last few months. When you visit a city, call people who live there and let them know you’ll be in town and arrange to get together. I just did this while visiting Colorado and it was so fun! I was able to catch up with four people I’d not seen in years! It gave each of those relationships a boost and we have plans to connect again soon!

One thing I know for sure – people are worth it! Relationships give meaning to life, so why not invest in building relationships for a lifetime? The payoff is huge!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect by email at mduesterhoft@people-results…she’ll always be up for starting a new relationship with you!If meeting and talking to new people doesn’t come naturally to you, here are a few suggestions to get you started: