I was asked in a recent interview how I build a relationship, and I think my on-the-spot answer (though not as beautifully rhymed as my ots poetry) was not lackluster, but could be improved upon if I had more time to think.
What I imagine I said, because my memory sometimes goes goldfish on me, was that you need to base any relationship with an introduction. Whether business or personal, send an email, make a phone call, do a little intro jig to grab the person’s attention. It’s not a mating dance, but it is important to make yourself memorable. Your colors must be bright. You must put forth your hand to be shaken. You must put your limbs out on a limb.
Enough of my predictably awful attempts at using literary devices.
Part of making this introduction, especially in a business environment, is doing your research. It is more than essential to look up a company if you are about to speak to its representative. If you’re about to meet a manager and can find his work experience on a site like LinkedIn, you might be surprised what he’s done in his pre-managerial existence, and how it may benefit what you bring up in terms of your own experience during the founding words of your relationship.
Once initial communication is made, you must establish a common ground. What do you both enjoy? What type of business are you trying to conduct? What is the actual necessity of the relationship? Whether for a business meeting or installing yourself as a teammate on a softball team, you should find what you share to be a strength. And remember: don’t forget.
If a person doesn’t take to you at first, sometimes you need to let that person go, or give them time to mull over your personality. Letting go isn’t always ideal, but when establishing a business relationship, I think it’s often key to look for alternate personalities within a company with which you may form a better bond (if this is an option).
If you are successful in creating the foundations of a relationship, maintaining contact is then key. Keep in touch, but don’t overdo it. And when you speak to them, don’t make it always about need. There must exist a mutuality in a relationship. Either your symbiosis is obvious in complementary need, or you need to ease up on the asking. A relationship based solely on personal need is never successful. Mutuality breeds trust. And trust (you can ask any heartbroken relationshipee) is the true building block of any relationship, a nucleus of sorts.
Keep in mind that your memory must not go goldfish. If a person talks about his children, remember their names. If she mentions her birthday, remember it. And if a person said something worth repeating in conversation later, write it down. Quotes become famous for a reason: repetition. Remembering the little details shows you care about what they have to say. People do appreciate appreciation. And the old adage is true: treat others the way you wish to be treated.
If a relationship ends, however badly, time can often revive it. Don’t be afraid to be honest. And don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong.
And if a relationship is good, it’ll stay good if you give it attention. Just, well, don’t be an idiot about it. I think that’s it; business as usual.