Editor’s Note: Dr. Frankie is a matchmaker and coach who focuses exclusively on the LGBT community. She holds a Doctorate in the field of Psychology and is an expert in the field of human behavior.
Although it takes commitment, discipline, and a certain amount of intelligence to forge and maintain healthy relationships, the formula to success is no mystery. While the nuances are different, the tenants of building strong interpersonal relationships are the same whether they are of a business, friendship, or romantic nature. The principles that create healthy business relationships are also essential in all other relationships. Think of the following qualities as currency, they are all critically strategic regardless of your position within a company. They are also the foundation minimally required in a relationship of any kind, and can only exist if there is mutuality.
Even a company with a superior product and business model will falter without strong business relationships, and at the heart of any successful business relationship is respect. While everyone easily agrees on the importance of respect, the challenge lies in the daily application during times of upheaval and stress. Building respect often begins with identifying the different talents and diversity of experiences an employee, client, or other business entity possesses. Recognize these differences as strengths that can help build stronger relationships and thus a more powerful organization.
Developing mutual respect is essential to relationship building and should minimize the “my way or the highway” outlook that hinders communication and creates mistrust. When a situation is viewed through the “my way or the highway” lens it inevitably leads to a power struggle. If one learns to respect differences of thought as differences of opinion and not of fact, there will be room for compromise and growth. More gains will be netted when the process of conflict resolution is reached through mutual and equitable participation. The results will be easier to sustain and longer lasting. Aim for a balance of power within the relationship which can only be achieved through developing a healthy and mutual respect for each other.
Never underestimate the importance of listening. I won’t insult your collective intelligence by giving definitions and examples of Active Listening, as I’m sure you’ve all attended the seminar, read the book and participated in exhaustive role-playing scenarios. But be aware that by communicating your position or needs you have a much better chance of gaining understanding and compliance from your business partner or even adversary. By not returning phone calls and emails or avoiding tough questions, the other party will most likely revert to what is human nature, catastrophic thinking. He or she will inevitably assume the worst, resulting in a breakdown in communication and increased distrust. Even if the information you deliver is not what your client or partner wanted to hear and (worst case scenario) ends the relationship, you can live with yourself knowing that you treated the other party with the level of respect that you would have appreciated from a business partner or client.
Trust cannot be underestimated in today’s business world, it is simply too competitive and with the amount of information accessible to the public, one’s reputation must be impeccable. There are many levels of trust that are critical to establishing one’s business reputation. While technical proficiency is important, no amount of money can replace ethical conduct and character. What kind of business relationship can exist, let alone thrive, if a client or partner does not feel secure that you will follow through on your promises, keep deadlines, and maintain sensitive information? Do you hold yourself accountable for your actions within your business transactions and relationships? Is there a healthy level of transparency in your relationship? Transparency is crucial in maintaining a positive business relationship. Again, if a partner believes you are withholding information or dodging tough questions, he or she will likely believe the reason for your evasiveness is far worse than what it most likely is.
In business as in personal relationships there will be times of conflict and upheaval. The question is not “if” these situations will occur, but rather how will you respond to them when they do. There is generally an easy way to deal with a situation and then there is the right way. Often times the right way may lead to more initial discomfort and resistance within the relationship or organization. The flip side however is that people will generally recognize and respect you more for avoiding the easy way out of a difficult situation. People will not forget this and if you can consistently perform your duties with a high level of integrity you will gain a tremendous amount of influence that will mitigate resistance to future difficult situations. Making decisions and conducting business interactions with integrity and thoughtfulness will pay dividends.
By establishing healthy boundaries in a relationship what you are also doing is showing others your priorities. Let clients and business partners know what times of day are ideal to contact you. Are weekends and evenings reserved for spending time with family and friends? Be sure to establish those boundaries early on to avoid uncomfortable situations later. Setting limits also means that you are showing your business relationships you respect yourself and value your time. When a client realizes that you value your time and skill set, they will quickly follow suit.
Setting limits will also ensure you get your needs met. If you maintain healthy personal boundaries you will have more to bring to the table in a professional setting. For example, imagine you work in a cubicle with three other employees. Each of you will have different skills, different strengths and different areas of improvement. And inevitably one of you will be a harder worker and do your job with a higher level of skill and proficiency. I will now give you one chance to guess which employee in your cubicle the employer will constantly seek out to give additional tasks and responsibilities to. It won’t be Slug-o in the corner; it will be the dependable, hard working, competent employee. If this strikes a nerve with you perhaps you have found yourself in this situation. If you are unable to set healthy limits you will probably find yourself taking on a disproportionate amount of the workload, leaving work later than your peers, attending more meetings, and burning out faster.
Protect yourself by setting limits and saying no when you need to. For example, offer to train your peers so they can increase their worth to the organization. It might take ten minutes to do the task yourself as opposed to an hour to train your peer, but overall you are protecting yourself from burnout and resentment. You will also be viewed as a more generous and valued employee. Consequently you will be building a stronger organization by populating it with more capable employees.
In business relationships as well as in personal relationships, don’t be hesitant to seek self-improvement. Although you can probably handle most new situations with ease there will occasionally be the zinger that requires a little additional insight and perhaps a delicate touch. Humans are complex beings; don’t be intimidated to seek out a coach that specializes in the type of relationship you’re experiencing challenges with for some fine-tuning.
To visit Dr. Frankie’s website click here.