13 Key Traits of Strong Professional Relationships

UPDATED: April 6, 2022
PUBLISHED: March 28, 2022
13 Key Traits of Strong Professional Relationships

Strong relationships are essential to business and career success. Whether it’s your boss, colleagues, mentors, clients or customers, or other people in your professional network, it’s important to actively nurture and build these relationships, as they can see you through all stages of success.

One challenge of relationship building in the social media era is that our digital connections can feel superficial. To overcome this, we should aim to establish and cultivate deep and truly meaningful relationships with the people in our lives.

To find out how, we asked a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council members, “What is one essential trait of strong and meaningful relationships?” Here’s what they advise:

1. Empathy

An empathetic understanding where the other person in the relationship is coming from and what they’re feeling is important to any strong relationship. You can’t fix everyone’s problems or try to change them, so instead, it’s important to just listen and be there for them.

—Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

2. Vulnerability

The most essential trait of a strong and meaningful relationship is vulnerability. Relationships based on vulnerability are positive, judgment-free and improvement-oriented. Trust, communication, love and other important relationship characteristics come from vulnerability.

—Vladimir Gendelman, Company Folders

3. Respect

If you do not respect your friends or your clients, you most likely won’t give those people your “all” when it counts. You only get what you give, and in order to receive respect, you need to demonstrate it to others as well. This is true in establishing a rapport with clients, as much as it is in maintaining an intimate relationship.

—Kristopher Brian Jones, LSEO.com

4. Real Face Time

Online communication tools like FaceTime and Skype enable us to see and talk to anyone instantly on the other side of the world. However, the relationships that I find to be the strongest are ones where we see each other in person. Because it takes more work to meet in the offline world, it signals to the person that they are important.

—Nanxi Liu, Enplug

5. A Giving-First Mentality

One trait of strong business relationships is providing something of value before asking for something, a giving-first mentality. Far too often, folks just want others to give and give without offering anything in return. This will not build a meaningful relationship. Plus, when you’re the first to offer up something of value, you’re much more likely to have your request for help fulfilled.

—Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

6. Unique Perspective

The strongest and most meaningful relationships I have in my life offer a unique perspective. Thanks to our long history together, these individuals provide context for my actions and motivations. They can help me realize how I’ve changed, how I haven’t changed and what’s really important in my life. I don’t know where I’d be without these extremely valuable points of view.

—Bryce Welker, CPA Exam Guy

7. Intent

We’ve all met that person who is eager to misunderstand you no matter how much you explain yourself. And then there’s the other person who will understand you without you having to say a word; this is because they know your intent is good. Strong and meaningful relationships start with good intent.

—Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

8. Hard Work

Strong relationships don’t maintain themselves. They require a commitment by both people to make an effort and to set aside time to engage with each other. This is as true of business relationships as it is of personal relationships. Lasting business relationships are built through active engagement and a commitment to going the extra mile.

—Vik Patel, Future Hosting

9. Honesty

Your first instinct or impression is usually right, and the cornerstone to a meaningful relationship is always honesty. Never be afraid to tell your team or co-workers your honest opinion. Too often, businesses slip into a culture of gossip and phony smiles. Clear communication built on a foundation of honesty is essential.

—Ryan Bradley, Koester & Bradley

10. Challenge

In business especially, you need to have relationships with people that are challenging—not where they push back on everything you say, but in the way that they challenge you to think differently and try new things. This can inspire healthy competition, and it’ll keep you on your toes and always striving to be better.

—Blair Williams, MemberPress

11. Value

When developing relationships in business, you must lead with value. “How can I add value to you and your business?” When you ask this question and commit to it before asking for anything for yourself, you are demonstrating, through action, that you are more concerned in building a strong relationship than getting someone out of it for yourself. Leading with this mentality can take you far.

—Connor Gillivan, FreeeUp

12. Conscientiousness

It’s important to be conscientious and know what page the relationship is on. We tend to have a bank account of credits between each other, and we deposit and withdraw those credits. How present are you with your partner’s feelings? Be aware of any tension between you, and have honest and open communications about that.

—Cody McLain, SupportNinja

13. Friendship

All relationships require vulnerability, attention and care, but a genuinely meaningful one is built on a solid foundation of friendship. Beginning your relationship with a client, a peer or even people in your personal life with these building blocks upfront will set you up for a trusting and long-term connection.

—Stanley Meytin, True Film Production

This article was published in February 2019 and has been updated. Photo by @natashayummyphoto/Twenty20

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.