Picture this: the scene is pre-pandemic speed dating. You’re hanging out for the heck of it with some friends and the scene has a decent vibe. Classy even. You feel curious and safe in the room, with zero attachment to the outcome of the evening, when you’re paired with your first “date.”
You notice how polished and confident they are. You even catch a whiff of their fragrance that reminds you of someone you loved and lost in the past. A fond memory arises.
You swap smiles and lean in, ready to connect, sipping from the glass in your hand once more.
“So…” you begin… “you look really nice. Have you ever attended one of these events before?”
They pause. Then their hands emerge from their lap holding a pen and paper. Confused, yet still curious, you straighten in your seat.
“Thanks…” they respond “we don’t have a lot of time, so…I’ve got three kids, I work in education, I have lots of relationship trauma, loads of debt and I’m looking for someone who isn’t afraid of commitment and is ready to be a provider. Is that you?”
You feel your eyes widen in horror and suddenly you’re wondering what time the event is over, where your friends are and the distance between your body and the nearest exit.
Your date is tapping their foot, glancing at the time and impatiently waiting for your response. You smile nervously. The buzzer sounds. Immediate relief washes over you.
The curiosity and openness you once had at the top of the evening is now replaced by a closed mind, a desire to check out and a small tinge of regret.
Our business interactions can have this same cascade of emotions. Only you may be the one emitting the urgent energy with pad and paper in hand, turning off an otherwise fertile connection. Only their awkward smile may look like an unfollow, an unsubscribe or ghosting you completely after that discovery call you were so excited to land from someone not connected via any degree of separation.
So what can you do?
It’s time to reimagine the relationships you’re seeking and (dare I say) chasing for the sake of building and growing the business you want.
When I was a baby advertising executive many years ago, I was given the opportunity to carve out a brand new position in the company. Equally excited and terrified I hit the ground running, using the tools and tactics my older and more experienced colleagues mapped out for me.
Only nothing felt right, and I wasn’t quite sure this degree of “faking it” would make me into anything I’d be proud of…or at all profitable. It wasn’t until I tapped into these 4 rules that my client list grew…along with my pockets.
I’ve recently returned to my career roots as I cultivate new and deeper business relationships and these 4 rules are leading the charge.
Rule #1: People are people, not profits.
As we saw in the sketch at the top of this post, no one likes a transactional relationship without a previously established connection. In this era of get, grow, reach, win, and hack your way to the top, we sometimes forget about the power of connection.
Energetic foreplay, if you will.
Who are you really? And how can you bring that person, vulnerabilities and humanness included, to the forefront of your interactions with other humans? What do they want and like? How do they desire to be “loved” professionally? What can you share or offer without expectation?
Basically, be a person, not a sales pitch. Which leads us to….
Rule #2: Cultivate, don’t chase.
Jumping in too fast, with too much, too soon is a recipe for what the kids call “getting canceled;” not to mention that’s also a definition for trauma, but that’s a different blog post.
When you run a business, being canceled or earning a reputation for being callous, rude or forceful isn’t good for your bottom line. If we follow rule #1 and remember not to treat people like a profit source, we won’t have to worry about that.
So this rule is about truly caring about people. Can you remember someone’s birthday, their pet’s names or their latte order? Maybe you make a date for coffee (or tea, I don’t discriminate) and bring their order to them without being prompted. Maybe you pop a note in the mail on a milestone occasion just because you care (as in, without a call to action) like the good ‘ole days.
Truly caring about people builds connection and reaching out in ways that stretch around or beyond digital borders makes those connections stronger.
Rule #3: Make space and be present.
No one likes to feel unimportant in interactions. And with so many more distractions now than there were almost 20 years ago at the start of my career it’s even more important to be intentional about the level of presence you bring when spending time with other people.
That starts with making space in your calendar so that you aren’t talking too fast, rushing the server at the restaurant where you met your connection for lunch because you have a meeting right afterwards. It’s not good for digestion or building trust.
That other person may hesitate to refer someone else to you or choose not to arrange a meeting with someone they have already cultivated a relationship with because they wouldn’t want that person to feel the way you made them feel.
This would reflect poorly on them and potentially harm all connections involved. So be responsible for the energy you bring to the room, conversation, or interaction of any kind. Breathe. Listen.
Again, be a real person. People like that.
Rule #4: Don’t hit and quit.
Okay, okay. If you know, you know. But if you don’t, this is basically what happens when someone gets what they want and then disappears.
Don’t do that.
Don’t be that person.
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of someone ghosting you or suddenly becoming less available after you’ve given them what they want, then you know it SUCKS.
Again, when you start with rule #1, we remember that people have feelings and that our presence can really matter to someone else. So start out how you can hold out (as my grandma Edna says).
Don’t come on so strong in the beginning knowing that you can’t keep that energy going at least half throttle for the long haul. You’re not only in this to grow your business, but you want a thriving network in both the giving and receiving.
It also helps when you connect with people you truly respect or admire in some way. You don’t have to add people to your network that make your stomach turn or who don’t share your most important values or you theirs.
So that’s it. Them’s the rules (as they say). At least for starters. And if you think about it, you probably learned these very same rules when you were a kid…or at least in college or somewhere in between.
They exist at the base of most of our values. It’s up to us to return to them, implement them and maintain them.
Oh, and remember…be a real person.
Got a rule you keep when creating or maintaining relationships in business? Share them in the comments below and let’s keep one another close to our humanity as we grow businesses that will change the world for the better.
TAKISHA AUGUST, Origin Community Manager/Head Empress
TaKisha is the holder of all spaces for The Origin Company. On calls, in the community, and sometimes 1-on-1 in the inbox helping members of our community feel seen, heard, and more confident about how to use the tools inside of the Origin membership.