Relationships have the potential to fundamentally change the course of our lives; they open and close doors, they help us grow, they contribute to our success or failure. Simply put, relationships matter. And in spite of this, we often go through our day building (or damaging) relationships without even realizing it.

In concert with a small group of colleagues, I’ve been spending a lot of time focused on the importance of relationships – with our customers, our internal stakeholders and colleagues, and even in our personal lives. We’ve been thinking about the actions we take every day that either build or erode the quality of our relationships – those things that help us to establish credibility and trust with others and those things we do that quickly damage relationships.

In an effort to help our team be more intentional and impactful in our relationships, we’ve taken ideas from our real-life personal and professional experiences, articles and blog posts, and some basic social mores, to come up with a list of 10 Ways to Build & Damage Relationships. We hope you’ll consider these items and that they serve as helpful reminders in your daily life.

Top Ways to Build Relationships:

1) Give Before Taking

While we learned this in grade school, the old adage still holds true, especially as we progress in our careers. There’s no better way to win friends and build advocates than by being helpful and supportive to others without asking anything from them in return.

2) Ask More, Assume Less

In order to fully understand and work well with others, don’t be afraid to ask the obvious questions – clarifying early on can help avoid confusion and conflict down the line. Plus, it shows genuine interest, which is always helpful in building strong relationships.

3) Prepare Purposefully

Think of how much you appreciate it when someone comes into a meeting well prepared. Simply thinking through a meeting ahead of time and showing up with well-considered ideas and perspectives shows you value the time and makes meetings more productive.

4) Share Your Personality

One of the easiest ways to establish rapport with others is to let them see more than just the work side of your personality. By opening up and letting people learn more about you – your interests, your passions, your aspirations – there’s a better chance of connecting on a personal level and building a stronger relationship. You might even find that your professional relationship spills over outside of work.

5) Collaborate Compassionately

Working to understand where someone is coming from and putting yourself in their shoes before offering your perspective can vastly improve your ability to work productively with others. Asking someone what their goals are and how they’re measured can help you to understand their view and also enable you to support their success, which is one of the most powerful things we can do for others.

And Top Ways to Quickly Damage Relationships:

6) Contribute to Noise

Creating swirl around a situation and gossiping with others almost always has negative consequences. Rather, addressing situations in an open, honest and constructive way directly with an individual tends to be a more effective way of building rather than damaging relationships. This holds true for peers, direct reports and managers.

7) Withhold Information

One of the best ways to damage a relationship is by intentionally withholding information and/or not being candid about differing perspectives. While there are always sensitive situations, being upfront and honest about the things we can share helps to build trust and the transparency also helps others make informed decisions.

8) Digitally Distract Yourself

How does it feel when you’re in a meeting where someone is fully engaged and focused solely on your conversation? And how about those same types of conversations when someone is typing away on their laptop or phone, looking up every now and then to comment, but not fully engaging? Being present with mind and body is one of the simplest things you can do to build relationships. And doing the opposite is one of the fastest ways to show someone how little you’re invested in them and the conversation.

9) Set Unrealistic Expectations

Rather than over-promising and under-delivering, it’s much more effective to be realistic and candid about expectations and deliverables. Trust can quickly erode when you sign up for something you can’t deliver. Rather, understand any sensitivity around timing, be upfront about what you can handle, and communicate often to establish trust and inspire confidence.

10) Showing up late or not at all

Showing up late to meetings or not showing up at all sends a strong signal about how much (or little) you value someone’s time. There are very seldom things outside of our control and choosing to be late or standing someone up helps you to very quickly establish a reputation as someone who doesn’t value other peoples’ time. Instead, think about building buffers into your calendar so you not only have time to get from one meeting to another, but ideally you also have a moment to prepare for your next meeting.

There are many more items that both help to build and quickly damage relationships, but we hope these are a few helpful reminders as you think about how you want to “show up” when it comes to building your personal and professional relationships and investing in others the way you’d want them to invest in you.

By Alyssa Merwin


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