Building Relationships: Benefits, Tips and How-to Guide

Updated August 15, 2023

People can build relationships in many areas of their lives, such as through school, work, and social networks. Because of the significant amount of time most people spend at work, the professional relationships you create might be some of your most important. Building strong, positive relationships with the people you encounter at work can have many benefits in both your personal and professional lives. In this article, we discuss why building relationships is important, and explore how to create them with both colleagues and customers.

Related: How To Build Connections in 10 Steps (With Benefits)

Why is building relationships at work important?

Building relationships in the workplace can have significant advantages in your professional life. Some benefits include:

  • Building and earning mutual trust and respect

  • Communicating more openly and honestly

  • Feeling more relaxed and supported in your work environment

  • Noticing improvements in your physical, mental, or emotional health

  • Focusing more on your responsibilities rather than on interpersonal conflicts

  • Enjoying your work more

  • Increasing your collaboration efforts and abilities

  • Creating a stronger professional network

Related: Guidelines on How To Network

How to build relationships with colleagues

Here are five strategies for developing or strengthening relationships with your coworkers:

1. Get to know colleagues individually

Try to get to know your coworkers individually. While team lunches or activities can be a great time to bond with your colleagues, building a positive relationship usually involves one-on-one interactions too. Consider asking a colleague to lunch or out for a coffee meeting, inviting them to a work-related event, or simply stopping by their desk to talk for a few minutes.

2. Be a great team player

Take an active role in your team's or department's responsibilities. Exercise and develop your teamwork skills, such as collaborating, negotiating, and compromising. Being a responsible member of a team is a great way to build trusting relationships with your coworkers both within and outside the office.

Related: Collaboration Skills: Definition and Examples

3. Respond proactively to challenges

When unexpected issues or challenges arise, work actively to find solutions. Your coworkers likely appreciate those committed to problem-solving issues in the workplace. Proactively working to find solutions can also help you fix smaller issues before they turn into larger ones.

4. Be available for additional responsibilities

Offer to help colleagues when they ask for it. If you notice a colleague struggling with certain tasks or having too many tasks, see if you can assist them with some of their other duties. Volunteering for additional responsibilities shows your team members that you're a team player. It exhibits that you're willing to go beyond your assigned responsibilities in order to help a colleague and improve your company.

5. Follow through and hold yourself accountable

Understand what steps a commitment involves before you agree to it. You're more likely to follow through with your workplace promises if you understand the specific components involved beforehand. This allows you to determine whether you can budget your time accordingly.

If you don't follow through with a commitment, hold yourself accountable. Be honest with your colleagues if you couldn't follow through and provide a reason. It's important to take these steps to show that they can trust you in the future with other responsibilities.

Related: How to Include Relationship-Building Skills on Your Resume

How to build relationships with customers

Customers are integral to the success of any business. Building positive customer relationships improves their experience with your business and increases their loyalty. Follow these steps to build a strong rapport with your company's customers:

1. Learn their names

Get to know your regular customers by name and use it to greet and address them. This can have a major impact on creating a positive customer experience. Doing this also encourages them to remain loyal to your company, as they may feel their patronage is personally appreciated.

2. Engage meaningfully

Conduct meaningful and authentic conversations with your customers. Natural conversations that veer away from the standard sales script help customers feel more appreciated and strengthen the bonds they have with your brand. For example, you could ask what their plans are for the weekend or how they intend to use the products or services they're purchasing.

3. Be authentic

Be honest when making recommendations and describing your products or services. Doing this helps improve the consumer experience by ensuring customers have realistic expectations for the products or services they're purchasing. Customers who trust what you say may be more likely to buy from you again or recommend your business to others.

Related: Social Skills: Definition and Examples

4. Exceed customer expectations

Try to find every opportunity to serve your customers at a higher level than what they expect. Customers appreciate employees who take the time to provide them with the highest quality service possible. If you do make any mistakes or your customers face a challenge, make sure you acknowledge it and take every measure you reasonably can to correct the issue.

5. Ask for feedback

Request honest feedback from your customers. Customers typically like it when they feel important and valued by the people they do business with. Asking your customers to provide feedback and then implementing their suggestions when possible can have a significant impact on creating a strong relationship.

6. Look for ways to reward customer loyalty

Let your most loyal customers know you appreciate their business. For example, you can ask your supervisor whether you can occasionally give repeat customers a discount or branded company merchandise as a thank-you for their patronage. Small gestures like these can do a lot for creating a positive customer experience and deepening their loyalty to your company.

Related: What Does a Relationship Manager Do? (Plus Tips)

Tips for building strong relationships at work

The approach you use to build healthy relationships at work may vary based on who you are bonding with and your existing relationship. However, these general tips can help you develop strong professional relationships with anyone you encounter:

Practise effective communication

Strong communication skills are important in building positive relationships in the workplace. Try to choose the words you use carefully and listen to the opinions of others. Empathy, active listening, and non-verbal communication are all important skills you can practise to help make you a better communicator.

Make it a habit to work on your relationships regularly

Try to make it a priority to do something every day to improve your relationships at work. For example, you can try to make time to talk to your coworkers or supervisors when in the break area. When these interactions become a daily habit, you may find relationships at work begin to develop naturally. It can also make it easier to invite them out for coffee or lunch breaks to deepen the relationship.

Related: 75 "Get-To-Know-You" Questions for the Workplace

Focus on increasing your emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence allows you to recognize the needs, thoughts, and feelings of others. When you're emotionally intelligent, you understand how to meet the needs of others and build positive relationships. Emotional intelligence can also help you more effectively identify, understand, and react to your own feelings.

Make personal connections

See if you can turn your professional relationships into personal ones as well. Understanding who someone is outside their job responsibilities or role can help you communicate and collaborate with them more effectively. Ask casual questions about their personal lives that give someone the opportunity to share as much or as little as they feel comfortable with, such as their weekend plans or hobbies. Fostering personal relationships also improves your job satisfaction and longevity with your employer.

Related: What To Write In a Sympathy Message for a Coworker

Try to ask questions rather than form opinions

If you find yourself disagreeing with a coworker or client, see if you can ask a question about the topic rather than making a statement. Even if you ultimately still don't agree with your colleague's or client's opinion, you can still gain insights about their personality or values by prompting them to talk more about their viewpoints. Other people also tend to feel respect and appreciation for those who take the time to learn more about their perspectives.

Have a positive attitude

Foster a positive attitude in the workplace. Try to smile at your colleagues, ask friendly questions, and have a positive demeanour. Even during challenging situations, try to look for the positive aspects. Many colleagues or customers find it easier to approach professionals who possess a positive outlook.

Remain in contact

Stay in communication with people in your professional network. Once you've established connections with your colleagues or customers, make an effort to keep and strengthen those relationships. Check in periodically with the people in your network to ask how they've been and give a few updates on your own life.

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