What’s at the core of all successful relationships?


By Phil Harwood

Recently, I’ve been thinking about what is at the core of all successful relationships, including professional and personal relationships. What’s interesting to me is that we often overlook the importance of this key concept and replace it with other things less critical, with not so great results.

The key to all successful relationships is trust. That probably doesn’t surprise you but I want you to consider just how important trust is and how we often focus on other things when working to establish new relationships or when evaluating existing relationships. 

For example, how often do you talk about building trust with prospective clients? Too often, we focus on price, capability, and other factors. Building trust may be implied in our presentation, but why not talk about it directly? Is there anything more important in a relationship than trust? I think not. So why not focus on it instead of all sorts of other things. 

Even transactional relationships involve an element of trust. I need something and I am trusting you to provide it. If you fail, I’ll move on to someone else. This may describe your relationship with your cell phone provider. We care about price, features, and benefits. But we care mostly about trust. Trust lies at the core. 

The reality is that many people are not trustworthy in their relationships, and individuals who are not trustworthy affect the reputation of organizations they represent. They may claim to be so, but they aren’t. Let’s take a look at some of the factors to consider when assessing a person’s trustworthiness: 

  • Tells the truth always with no white lies or half truths
  • Follows through on commitments even when it hurts
  • Treats people with respect even when they don’t deserve it
  • Humbly admits their mistakes and asks for forgiveness or help
  • Carefully speaks and acts so as to be above reproach 
  • Proactively invests in relationships
  • Maintains a posture of hopefulness and positivity
  • Available and responsive to requests for information, feedback, etc.
  • Does the right thing even when nobody's watching

This list certainly could be added to or modified, depending on your definition of trust. I think it’s a good starting point. 

So, what does all of this mean? What are we to do with it? I see two paths. The first path is one of self-reflection and maybe some outside input. Answer these questions:

  • How trustworthy am I?
  • What steps might I take to be more trustworthy in my relationships?
  • What is holding me back? 
  • What help might I need? 

The other path is to consider the partners you have chosen, professionally and personally. How trustworthy are they? Is it time for a serious conversation? Or is it time to move on? 

Finally, I believe that none of us are perfect and that we all need redemption. This is true in our business and in our personal relationships as well. Trust that has been violated may indeed be restored over time and it might be necessary to trust someone who doesn’t deserve it. As difficult as this may be, it is all part of the deal. 

I trust that this blog post has been helpful and I trust that you will let me know if you have any comments. 

Now go forth. 

Tags: Relationships , Trust , Coworkers , Honesty ,