How The Most Successful People Manage Their Relationships


Go Beyond Positive Intent

At one time or another we’ve likely been encouraged to assume positive intent in others. When we get an email or text that comes across as rude, we should take a moment and re-interpret the message in such a way that grants the other person the benefit of the doubt. A curt comment might be because they’re in a rush. Being left off a group email or text might be because they’re trying to respect my time. (Besides, don’t we all complain that we get too many emails?!)

Might it be better to be “gullible” than assuming someone had malicious motivations? Below we’ll begin our exploration of healthier ways to view the relationships around us so that we get more out of our interactions with the people in our professional and personal circles.

“Research shows that your ability to empathize with, connect with, and influence others is a pivotal skill for success. But time and again in my work with leaders across industries and geographies, I’ve seen people struggle with how to build those relationships.” — @HarvardBiz [2]

The point is, we need more than ordinary relationships to be massively successful. What we need are more transformative relationships. These are people in our lives that can possess HUGE influence on us and we allow it by being completely vulnerable, flaws and all. Your goal should be to ensure you’re actively fostering and building relationships that lead to a transformative relationship. If you’re scared that if they really got to know you and judge you’re not all that great (i.e. imposter syndrome), then that’s you holding yourself back. Consider this:

“The simple truth is that most people aren’t out to get you. We are so bad at spotting deception because it’s better for us to be more trusting. Trust, and not adeptness at spotting deception, is the more evolutionarily beneficial path.” — @mkonnikova [8]

Bottom line is that in all of your interactions, go beyond assuming positive intent but that they are suffering themselves. So help them, be transparent, and chances are you’ll be building a transformative relationship in time.

Once you assume the positive in people and get closer to creating deep relationships, take the next step and realize the Power Behind Mapping Networks

The Virtual Trust Fall!


Getting tired of this pandemic putting our lives on pause? I know I am. In fact, I look around and it just feels like 2020 is a dumpster fire that just won’t quit. We can’t control the external factors (social inequality, pandemic, wildfires, the election) but we can assert control over our personal environment. Research has shown that one of the biggest stressors in our lives is — no surprise — our relationships. An unhappy spouse, a disappointing friendship, or an annoying coworker, it all affects us.

Yet, if we’re looking for massive success in life, we’ve got to become more adept at not only resolving tension within those key relationships, but also transforming them into connections that bring more positivity into our lives and in those with whom we interact.

Brene Brown, famed psychologist who has her own Netflix special, likes how Charles Feldman defines trust. “Trust is choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else.” [7]

You might be wondering, how do I turn that lofty definition into practical steps to build trust with others around me (which we all know is key to future success and happiness)?

Storytime. I have a colleague that I have a hard time getting along with. He appears to me to be meddling in my “job jar” and even belittling my role (we’re equals, I’m not your minion!). And during the pandemic, we’re working in a virtual environment, which makes it unfortunately easy to misjudge the intent of others (why are you yelling at me… oh wait, you had caps lock on…).

I decided to change my perspective on this relationship and set out to have a conversation with him about my feelings. I wanted to frame the conversation in a way that put us both in the right mindset. So, I told him: “Hey, I’m about to do a trust fall with you. You ok with that? You will catch me, right?!” Then I proceeded to describe how I felt (careful not to accuse him of anything or point out what he did, rather just the impact on me). He explained his motivations, which I accepted, and that’s it! A short 5 minute chat has resulted in a more trusting relationship that can be built upon further.

Ideas That Come From Listening

@__nitch // James Baldwin & Nina Simone, “In order to have a conversation with someone, you must reveal yourself.”

There are two types of people — those who love to talk and those who prefer to listen.

Do you know which type you are? If you’re being brutally honest with yourself, is that helping or hurting you?

I know tons of people who have zero problem filling in any amount of time with their “gift of gab.” To be honest, I’m sometimes jealous! These people get to deliver their vision and shape how others spend their time. But these people don’t grow and don’t build deep relationships with others.

I’ve had to learn to be ok with silence. In that silence, others will eventually speak up. When they do, then I get to learn what’s important to them. I get a glimpse into how they think, which helps me to understand what kind of person they are.

Author Manbir Kaur in her Harvard Business Review articles states 3 ways to listen:

  • Listening to protect: The only thing running through your mind is your opinion and how to defend it. You’re talking to prove your point. (Not much communication happening at this stage.)
  • Listening to accept or reject: You’re behaving like Judge Dredd, acting as jury, judge and executioner. (Also not great.)
  • Listening to co-create: Listening with the intent of putting yourself in their shoes. (Here’s where you want to be.)

When you listen with the goal of learning how the other person sees the world, magic happens — real, lasting relationships are formed, and new and exciting ideas are created.

My advice for you is to embrace the silence in conversations. Don’t let your insecurities (“But I need to talk to show others I bring value and know something!”) get in your own way. Instead, make it a power move by staying quiet and soliciting others to share their ideas. They might not consciously realize the shift at first, but in time, they will pick up on the change, oftentimes it’ll be when they notice how different they feel after their conversations with you.

In our quest for happiness and success, let’s expand the boundaries of ideas by listening to others.

Keep in mind what Judith Glaser, the author of Conversational Intelligence, said: Our brain takes just 0.07 seconds in a conversation to form an initial impression of the other person’s intent: whether we are going to trust the person or not. [1]

Choose Your Next Words Wisely


A pet peeve of mine is when I hear someone use the words, ‘I’ or ‘my’, when describing a team effort. Or using the words, “you” and “your”, when describing a problem… when it’s still a team effort. In a professional setting, these word choices betray the speaker’s self-centered view of their contributions and/or responsibilities.

These are very tiny word choices whose usage may have become an unconscious habit. The effects may be hard “to put our finger on” but for me, they make the person come across as arrogant and a jerk.

Like I said, these are word choices that we can reprogram out of our speech, to reduce the barriers that keep us from connecting with each other. Given the dumpster fire that is 2020, and we need all the help we can get to reduce conflict and build stronger bonds with everyone in our lives.

“Your communications can benefit from framing messages with proper language and nuance. For example, news outlets reporting a Covid-19 spike that has “killed 812 people in the past 24 hours” is scarier than one that is reported as a “mortality rate of 1.14%.”” — @cindyrconstable in @Entrepreneur

Here are my rules when choosing which words to use (in person, in emails, in texts, …anywhere).

  • Good news — Use “we” and “our” as much as feasible. By sharing the success, it’s not just about you and allows others to feel good too.
  • Failure or problem — Use “I” and “my,” (or maybe an occasional “we”), but never “you.” Nothing triggers a person to be defensive like saying “you.” Instead, make it a power play by owning it. The fact that you can own a failure or problem must mean you’re bigger than it is.
  • Disagreeing with someone — Use “and,” never “but.” It’s extremely difficult and actually might make no sense,… AND use the word ‘and’ anyways! The reason is the word ‘but’ is a very strong trigger word. Yeah, the other person may catch on that you’re trying to be persuasive, so what! Coming across as trying is better than coming across as difficult.

Lastly, don’t sound like a robot. I recommend writing as if you’re talking. This gives your communication and correspondence a much more personal feel and is relatable. If you sound like a robot, then the other person will too. If the goal is to come to agreement and foster a deep relationship, then be yourself… while realizing words matter.


  1. Want Stronger Relationships at Work? Change the Way You Listen. by Manbir Kaur
  2. 3 Traits of a Strong Professional Relationship by Darin Rowell
  3. 4 Communication Moves That Ease Anxiety in Times of Crisis by Cindy Constable
  4. 3 Reasons Empathy is Good for Business by Stu Sjouwerman
  5. Building Reputation and Relationships When We Can’t Be Face-to-Face by Lida Citroën
  6. The Relationship Economy and 10 Ways to Improve Your Professional Relationships by John Rampton
  7. “The Anatomy of Trust” by Brené Brown
  8. The Confidence Game: What Con Artists Reveal About the Psychology of Trust and Why Even the Most Rational of Us Are Susceptible to Deception by Maria Popova
  9. “Assuming suffering” is one step beyond “assuming positive intent” by Jane Park

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