One day, my five year old child stunned me. He stunned me big time. He was just coming from school and found me in the lounge watching lunch-hour news on my favourite channel, Al Jazeera. I was with a close friend of mine who had kindly offered to give me a lift because my car had gone for servicing.
So what happens next? My son stands there on the lounge door, looks at the two of us and asks me Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwhy are you always with him?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Pointing to the friend. I stared at him for a long time. To begin with, I was not sure whether the answer had to be a calm one or otherwise. Worse still, I admittedly did not have a ready answer. Ã¢â‚¬ËœBecause your dad does not have as many friends so I keep him companyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, the friend answered. The son laughed and trodded off to his bedroom. The incident still lingers fresh in my mind.
That takes me to todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s discussion. Many people argue that the fundamental unit of value in the modern world is money. I disagree Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I think the fundamental unit of value in the modern world is the relationship, and by extension, income that derives from those relationships Ã¢â‚¬â€œ doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sound Biblical but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s it. By income, I mean more than just money.
Think about it for a moment. What happens if your relationship with your boss and your coworkers sours? You lose your job Ã¢â‚¬â€œ your income goes down. What happens if you build stronger relationships with your boss and your coworkers? Your income goes up Ã¢â‚¬â€œ you get pay raises, promotions and bigger projects.
You can easily carry this over into your personal life, too. LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s say youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re about to move. If you have a lot of real friends, a few phone calls will get you all the help you need. This phenomenon pops up in pretty much every aspect of our lives. From this, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s easy to see that building up a lot of real relationships with people is valuable.
What do I mean by a real relationship? IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m referring to one where something of positive value is exchanged on a regular basisÃ¢â‚¬â€useful advice, a helping hand, loaning of items, an ear to truly listen, and so on.
Any relationship worth its salt has a healthy dose of positive exchanges of value with a minimum of negative exchanges (insults, backstabbing, gossip, incorrect advice, being an obstacle).
I confess that for a long time, I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how to do this well at all. It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that I thought other people should give me value in exchange for nothing Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I just simply didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand the value of such exchanges.
I was naturally quiet and it felt to me as though the effort expended in making myself reach out was much more than any value there was in what I might have to offer. In other words, introversion and a lack of self-confidence left me in a state where I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t build many relationships.
Surrounding yourself with people is very important. Go to where people are and open up. Attend conferences and conventions and meetings. If you hear someone talk who seems interesting, follow up directly with that person. Volunteer to present Ã¢â‚¬â€œ itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll give lots of others a chance to hear you.
Go an extra inch by hosting parties. Start having dinner parties and backyard barbecues on a regular basis. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just invite the same old people, either Ã¢â‚¬â€œ rotate the people you invite. Try to mix it up, too Ã¢â‚¬â€œ donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just invite the same circles. Mix the circles. This gives you the powerful opportunity to introduce people who may not know each other but may actually have a lot in common. If you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know where to start, start with your neighbours and your current friends.
Do also remember to keep in touch. Make a regular habit of keeping in direct contact with people. I should confess that I have been very bad at this myself. But a good technique is to keep a big list of people you want to maintain relationships with and strive to contact them on a regular basis. Let them know what you are up to directly and ask what theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re doing.
Do also give yourself freely. If someone needs help, help. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worry about “payback.” DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worry about what you might get out of it. Just help them. If you contact someone and find out theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re stuck on a project, need a job, or need a helping hand in some other way, either provide that help yourself (if you can) or find someone who can provide that help and make the connection.
Do ask for advice and show appreciation for help that you get. At some point, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll need some direct help from the people youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve built relationships with (youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be surprised how often they provide indirect help). When you do ask for that help, be thankful.
Thank them for showing up, thank them for whatever help they provide, and do what you can to make their contribution easier. Doing these things over and over again will cause you to build a lot of stable, value-based relationships over time. Time and time again, those relationships will come through for you when you need them in your career and in your personal life.
Do you really need some of those people you call friends?