Building lasting, successful relationships is one of the most important roles of anyone’s life. Every organisation and all business depends on relationships—internal (with the people you work with) and external (with customers, service providers, opposition, banks, and so on).

Relationships are not always easy. You may be required to work with other people, some of whom you may not get on well with, and some you may even dislike. Or you may feel offended by something someone has said or done. Worse still is if you allow something someone has said or done to eat away at your psyche for years. But you cannot go from job to job until you find the ‘perfect’ one—at some stage you have to settle.

Few people are really prepared to do what it takes to build good relationships. The first and most important rule is to display the behaviour you expect from others. In other words, if you want respect from someone, you need to show respect towards them; if you want others to have compassion for you, you need to show compassion towards them. Intimate relationships work on the same principle. If you want trust, love and respect from your spouse or partner, then you must display those behaviours towards them. It works like a boomerang—it comes back! Once you understand that, you will have the basics of building a good relationship with anyone. Your interactions with people will improve dramatically.

Tips on how to build lasting relationships

  1. Treat everyone as an equal, no matter what their position in the organisation. Do not patronise those below you in the work hierarchy, and do not act subservient to those above you. Always act as though you believe this and you will attract strong and successful relationships.
  2. Be aware of other people’s feelings. Always consider the effect your words will have on them. If you find yourself feeling spiteful or resentful, let go of that and make a conscious effort to be kind. Being good-natured and cooperative is a choice.
  3. Tell others what your needs and expectations are, then be sure to ask them what their needs and expectations are. And then listen to them!
  4. When you’re with someone, be with them fully. Give them all your attention. Celebrate with them when they celebrate and show compassion when they’re feeling down. Show genuine interest in other people’s families, projects, opinions and concerns.
  5. Be reliable and keep your word. If you say you will do something—do it.
  6. Give constructive feedback—but only if you have the right to, or if you are asked to. Don’t use feedback to criticise, and never be spiteful or hurtful.
  7. Always be totally professional. Don’t get involved in company politics, and never gossip. That way people will trust you and will know that information they share with you will not be spread about.
  8. Have a good attitude and be cheerful. People avoid depressed, negative whiners.
  9. Don’t be argumentative. You can disagree without being disagreeable.
  10. Don’t be affected if gossipers say something bad about you. Simply live so that nobody will believe them.
  11. Don’t get upset if you don’t get the recognition you want. Keep doing your best—for yourself! Success is about you and your own achievements; it doesn’t come from other people.
  12. Spend time with your ‘allies’. This should sometimes be quality time, such as having lunch together. Strategise, ask for opinions and advice. Be available.
  13. Don’t fight others on small issues—you may need their support later.
  14. Resolve issues and conflicts as soon as possible. Apologise if you were at fault, or let the other person know that you accept their apology—and then move on.
  15. Never back-stab anyone or go over their heads to their boss or your boss. Go directly to the person involved and sort out the problem or issue directly.
  16. Do not express every thought that comes into your head; one seldom regrets what has remained unsaid.

Building relationships takes time and effort, but it is extremely rewarding. This is one of the most fundamental and crucial of all strategies when climbing the corporate ladder. You have to be prepared to commit yourself, and accept that there will be times when you do not get what you want. Successful professional people make it their business to build relationships and heal broken ones.