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People Need People: Tips for Relationship Building

Amanda Sollman


Do you ever have moments that, at the time seemed not all that important, but for some reason tend to stick with you for the long run? One of these that I keep coming back to is a conversation I had with my dad in high school, where he gave me some great insight (he's kind of a wise dude) into building relationships.

See, in that conversation, I was complaining about some friends of mine at the time. I don't remember exactly what the issue was, but it seems like I wanted more from them - more time, more attention or maybe I couldn't figure out why they were making certain choices (who knows?) - than they were interested in giving. And this disconnect between my expectations about our friendship and the reality of the situation was causing me some major emotional heartache.

Now, my dad is not into teenage girl drama. Even after nearly 30 years as an agriscience teacher, he has pretty much no tolerance for ridiculousness. On one hand, it's easy to look at him and say, "You just don't get it, Dad!" and, on the other hand, it means he gives some really good, level-headed advice. In this situation, I was fortunate enough to process his words as the latter.

He said, "Tell me, this friend of yours, are they a forever friend? Or are you just friends with them because of the situation you're in – you're both at the same high school, both in FFA? Is this someone who – a year from now, five years from now, whatever – is going to still be around?"

It was in that series of questions, and the conversation that followed, that I realized I have the choice over who I build relationships with, how much of myself I choose to invest in those relationships, and what my expectations should be of our time together. In this case, it was coming to terms with the difference between situational and long-term friendship. At other points in my life, it's been about choosing who I spend time with in the first place and whether or not they serve the person I want to become.

As human beings, we're all going to deal with relationships at some point – romantic, platonic, business, casual. Figuring out how to build those connections in a way that benefits us is the trick. Today I want to spend a little time diving into some tips for relationship building – why we should build them, how we should build them, and tricks for making them purposeful.

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Rigorous relationship development - A must

If you've taken our THRIVE Assessment or logged your daily Thrive with Five scores, you know that relationships are a key part of what we think is the recipe for a truly thriving life. In the THRIVE Assessment (you can take that here), we ask you questions like:

  • Do you take time to get to know your clients/customers?
  • Do you invest time getting to know others, both at work and at home?
  • Do you go out of your way to help other people reach their goals?
  • Can people count on you for advice in non-work settings?
  • Are you familiar with the spouses/significant others of the people you work with?
  • Do you ask others for help in accomplishing your goals?
  • When you have a conflict with someone else, do you address it immediately instead of letting it fester?

It may seem like some of these are frivolous – we've definitely heard people say they don't care to get to know their coworkers' families. But the truth is, building deep, meaningful relationships is key to both the "selfish" and altruistic parts of a thriving life – people help you and you help people. And that's what makes the world go round :)

In the same vein, when we have clients log their Thrive with Five scores, we ask them to measure relationships in two ways:

  1. With the closest relationship in their life (usually with a spouse), are they telling that person they're appreciated and are they showing that person appreciation?
  2. With other (maybe more transactional) relationships, are they doing something helpful for someone else and are they complimenting someone?

These tasks seem so simple - after all, saying "thank you" or "Hey, that was a great presentation you gave the other day!" literally takes less than 30 seconds - but we take these small actions for granted and don't do them nearly enough.

No matter what you're trying to accomplish – more success at work, a stronger marriage, being a more active part of your community – investing time in rigorous relationship development is going to be what gets you there.

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You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with

Personal development hero Jim Rohn popularized the belief that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. According to a 2012 article on Business Insider on this topic, Rohn's idea was related to the Law of Averages – "the theory that the result of any given situation will be the average of all outcomes."

If you spend time with poor people, chances are you aren't going to break out of that cycle.

If you spend time with negative people, chances are you aren't a ray of sunshine most days.

If you spend time with lazy people, chances are you aren't reaching all you're capable of.

It's why your mom cared so much about who you were hanging out with after school. When we surround ourselves with people who make us better, we're going to grow – and the opposite is true if we don't choose the right friends.

So who are you hanging out with?

Are they serving you in your quest to stop surviving and start thriving? Or are they holding you back?

Are they challenging you to think in new and different ways? Or are they just feeding into your current mindset?

Choose wisely. Which brings me to the final section...

You don't have to be friends with everyone.

Now, I know people who are friends with everyone and if that's you – great! (I actually kind of admire that, as I'm more of a "few close friends" type of person.) But I do think there's a difference between having a broad network and having to spend valuable time with every single person you meet. The former makes you great at parties. The latter is a waste of your time.

There is an element of strategy to effective relationship development.

Beyond choosing the "right five people," I'd also encourage you to think about people in your life that could help you grow and evolve through their specific role. Let me give you some examples:

  • Who do you have access to that can give you positive feedback and/or negative feedback? Make sure you have a mix of both. (PS - coaching can be a great resource for this!)
  • Who are the people doubting you or criticizing your ideas? Yes, they can deter you if you let them – but they can also make you fight harder
  • Who is in your network that can introduce you to someone new – maybe someone who can mentor you or link you up with a possible business prospect?
  • Who's your "devil's advocate" that can make you think about ideas and approaches from a different perspective?
  • Who can be your vacation/fun-time buddy? They may or may not be the same as the people in your professional circle.
  • Who will be your accountability friend – the one who makes sure you're doing what you say you will?

This is just one short list of the types of people you might have in your life. Either way, though, look at your goals and ask yourself, "Who do I need to surround myself with now to help me get to where I want to be in the future?"

My dad taught me a very valuable lesson about being purposeful in relationship development. That's not to say that I shouldn't have short-term, situational friendships – those can be great sometimes. But it's also important to look at the big picture – and that can mean weeding out those people or groups that are no longer serving your ability to thrive.

Have other thoughts? Leave them in the comments!

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