Networking versus relationship building—aren’t they pretty much the same thing? I’ll admit, I thought they were until recently. Listening to a podcast featuring Glen Jackson of Jackson Spalding in Atlanta changed my mind.
As Jackson says, “Networking is about meeting people; relationship building is about investing in people. Networking is a task; relationship building is a commitment. Networking is about talking and taking, and relationship building is about listening and learning.”
Wow! That’s a huge difference, and very eye opening. As I think about my most prized relationships, I have to ask myself if I’m really doing my best to build them well, or if I’m just networking my way through life. Turns out there are certain things great relationship builders do. Here are four that resonated with me:
- Listen and Learn – We’ve all been there. You’re in a conversation with someone and you can tell they aren’t present. They are nodding, “uh-huh”-ing, but it’s clear their mind is somewhere else. Too often, that absent person is me. But good relationship builders truly listen. They ask good questions. They hear the answer. They want to know more. They want to know about you. They care, and they are present.
- Invest – Building a relationship takes time, and great relationship builders are in it for the long haul. They want to go deep instead of wide. They invite you to lunch or coffee. They go to your games. They ask about the job interview, or the parent who had a health scare. And perhaps most importantly, they roll up their sleeves to help, giving their time and attention without looking for something in return.
- Personalize – While I love getting gift cards for Christmas, there is nothing quite like getting a gift from someone that communicates, “I really know you.” Great relationship builders do this, sending personalized notes, articles they know you’ll like, or texts of encouragement. They order a book for you that they know you’ll love. They bring you your favorite Starbucks drink. It feels good to be known, and great relationship builders do this well.
- Care – This is fourth on the list, but truly foundational to the other three. Good relationship builders care. They care enough to listen without having to get a word in. They care enough to learn about you and really get to know you. They care enough to invest their time and energy into you. Their attention is personalized because they’ve cared enough to learn about you and make observations. Great relationship builders genuinely care.
Those are four relationship-building traits that resonated with me. While relationship building doesn’t come naturally to many of us, we can all improve. I hope some of those resonated with you as well.