A miller and his son were taking their donkey to sell at market, when they passed a group of girls who laughed at how foolish the miller was to have a donkey and yet be walking. So the miller put his son on the donkey.
Further down the road they passed some older people who scolded the miller for allowing his young son to ride, when he should be riding himself. So the miller removed his son and mounted the donkey. Later they passed some travelers who said if he wanted to sell the donkey, the two of them should carry him or he’d be exhausted and worthless. So the miller and his son bound the donkey’s legs to a pole and carried him.
When they approached the town, the people laughed at the sight of them, so loud that the noise frightened the donkey, who kicked out and ran away. Embarrassed, the miller and his son went home with nothing, save the lesson that you will achieve nothing by trying to please everyone.
There’s a hard truth here that is at the heart of all relationships, even brand new ones. So often we try to connect with people, and we do our best to leave a good impression on them, but that’s not the right approach. A good impression is a fine start to a relationship, but there’s a lot more involved in building meaningful relationships. Based on personal experience, interviews and studying some of the most successful people in the world, I’ve outlined six step-by-step keys to creating successful relationships, from first impression to lasting partnership.
1. Bring the right energy.
This is where it all starts when making an impression. You can either leave someone feeling like they need to have you around or you will leave them feeling like they don’t want to see you again.
2. Don’t fear vulnerability.
Vulnerability allows people to connect deeper because a strong sense of trust develops when both parties begin to see that there is nothing to hide. But it starts with one party opening up more. Vulnerability is a strength in any relationship.
3. Offer empathy.
When you truly open up, listen in, and care about people you begin to understand them. People can sense when you truly care, and that’s when a deeper connection happens.
4. Make yourself valuable.
I understand this principle at the core. Many of the things I’ve done over the past 15 years have been to help a greater good. I know that the more I give without expecting anything in return the more that will be given to me. You have to offer real value and contribute to the people around you. They will see you as a necessary part of their life and business.
5. Express gratitude.
This one I learned later in life, but when you give the other party the ability to feel like they are contributing to your growth and your life, you are making the relationship even stronger. Don’t ever forget that a strong relationship also involves receiving and making the other person aware that they are appreciated.
6. Be consistent.
This one is self-explanatory. The more you show up doing the things above, the more you will connect with the people in your life and the businesses you want to grow. It’s not a short process and that’s why some people can’t build strong relationships. It’s a long and involved evolution that takes time to build.
I’ve used those exact steps to build amazing relationships in my life—within my family, among my employees and my professional network, and on the larger scale as a social influencer. All of the key points involve growth and never-ending improvement for the sake of other people, because they’re worth it.
Everyday we must ask ourselves, How can I help those around me? Keep people first, and you will start to build strong, purpose-filled relationships subconsciously.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by @jennyteo/Twenty20