I have been teaching and training communication skills for over 20 years, and things happen frequently to remind me that the key thing I have been advocating for years is becoming more and more important: The most successful people develop great relationships and use them to build a foundation for success.

In any job or business, relationship-building has to be the most important objective. Quite simply, the quality of the relationship will determine the quality of the product or service. If people avoid you, it will be impossible to get work done. Therefore, your professional effectiveness at work will partly depend on how much people are willing to interact with you.

If you are serious about being more successful, you had better get serious about building better relationships. Here are seven key factors you need to work on.

1. Reliability          

The only way you can make successful connections is by gaining respect, creating trust and building rapport. This means you need to be transparent, honest and hardworking. How reliable are you? Do you turn up for meetings and share your knowledge? Do you keep others informed? Do you do what you said you would do in a timely manner? Are you honest?

2. Consistency

This works hand in hand with the first point. People tend to trust others who act in a consistent manner, and will avoid joining forces with people who don’t follow their intentions with actions. If you participate actively in a meeting and offer to take some actions, but then you don’t follow through on them, you will be seen as unpredictable and unreliable, and people won’t trust you. This is more likely to break relationships instead of build them.

3. Good Manners

I see and hear of people who walk into the office each morning without even glancing at others let alone saying a simple, “Good morning!” Others can be downright abusive and disrespectful to colleagues and subordinates. It is no excuse to justify this by complaining of pressures of work. We are all busy! Courtesy is the oil that keeps the engine of any relationship running smoothly.

4. Common Interests

Too many people wait for others to show an interest before being willing to engage. When you make an effort to discover common interests and experiences, you can then build on them. For example, notice things on your colleague’s desk, maybe a photo, a holiday souvenir or a magazine he is reading. You may learn something new you can discuss. But don’t be the type of person that bores people to death because they talk all the time. Instead, if you show genuine interest in other people, they will be flattered and will hopefully want to get to know you better too.

5. Confidence

Confident people make wonderful team players because they acknowledge other people’s talents and skills. They know they have something to offer in communication, and they are also open to what others have to offer.

Learning to think of yourself and others in a positive way can be the first step towards inner confidence and self-esteem. This will help in your communication with other people. By thinking more confidently and positively, you will be able to communicate more confidently and effectively, and you will get people to co-operate with you more easily.

6. Active Listening

Take an interest in others and listen to them. You may learn some useful information that you can use to create value in the future. Chat to a client about his family. Find out your boss’s likes and dislikes. You never know when this information may be useful. For instance, when I was a secretary, I heard my boss’s wife commenting to someone on how she liked a certain perfume. So when it came to her birthday, and the boss didn’t know what to get her, guess what I suggested?

7. Empathy

Empathy is all about getting to know people and understanding how they feel. The need to be understood is one of the highest human needs, but many people don’t care or just don’t make an effort to find out how we really feel.

In my communication workshops, I find people have a lot of difficulty with expressing real feelings or empathising with others. I think this is a shame. Just imagine the difference you can make if you start to really get to know people and understand how they feel! It could really set you apart from others and you would start giving great value that many people don’t give.