Solutions

8 ways to build better relationships at work

Here's how you can build rapport with your bosses, colleagues and clients to influence them and succeed in your career.
 


1 KNOW WHOM YOU SHOULD INFLUENCE

There’s no need to influence everyone, says Karen Leong, director of Influence Solutions - a regional learning-and-development organisation - and master trainer in influential communication. “You only need to actively exert an influence on the people – your bosses or clients – who have a direct impact on helping you to achieve your goals. So focus your attention on building good relationships with them.”

2 BE HONEST AND EARNEST 

These are the two most important qualities that make people believe in you. Karen explains: “For example, when you buy insurance, you trust that your financial advisor has good intentions and will safeguard your fortune. You’re not buying into the product – you’re buying into the person.

“That’s how influence works too – when you can invoke feelings of trust in the person you wish to influence, they’re more likely to listen to and accept what you say.”

3 FIND YOUR STYLE

Karen says there are four influencing styles – the Power Distant, the Latent, the Populist, and the Compelling Influencer. “You usually belong to one dominant style but will subconsciously use the other styles, depending on who you’re dealing with. Knowing when to switch influencing styles when meeting different people, and using them to your advantage, will help you communicate better.”

4 DON'T BE AFRAID OF CHANGE

A self-professed wallflower when she was younger, Karen says she read books about influence, and reinvented herself. “Don’t be afraid to take small, visible steps – like smiling more if you’re standoffish at work, or standing taller when you’re talking to others – to reinvent yourself. It’s all part of self-development.”

5 FIND COMMON GROUND WITH "DIFFICULT" PEOPLE

Often, the people we have trouble influencing are the ones we think don’t like us. In turn, we disengage from them by keeping our tone formal or interacting with them only on a need-to basis. Karen warns that this is a potential pitfall.

“Remember that the other party is also liked by some people. This will shift your perspective and allow you to make an effort to connect with her. Try engaging her in different sorts of conversations – ask sincerely after her family or interests; you’ll be surprised to see that it will change the nature of your relationship over time.”

6 REMOVE YOUR MENTAL BLOCKS

Karen says: “During a conference for women leaders, I asked them to draw a picture of their ideal managing director and was surprised that they all drew a picture of a man. I had to remind them that it’s important to work on your self-belief before you can successfully exert influence over someone else, because confidence inspires confidence.”

7 INFLUENCE IN THE RIGHT WAY

Some bosses, especially if they’re female, feel the need to dominate in order to gain respect or credibility. But relying on your authority doesn’t help people like you better - an important factor in influencing others, says Karen. “Respect is earned through your knowledge and experience, and the work you’ve put in to get there. To maintain the level of respect, you also need to be liked. Otherwise, what you have is grudging respect, and it’ll make influencing others harder.”

8 BUILD RELATIONSHIPS BEFORE YOU NEED TO

Don’t rely on your company or job title to influence others, says Karen. It may open doors for you, but it’s the relationships you have with people that can help you in future. “At conferences, people always ask me how to network; in return, I’ll ask them if they’re looking for a job. Because in that case, they’re job-hunting, not networking – there is a difference.

“Networks are not built overnight, and have a higher chance of turning into real, sincere relationships when you don’t need to ‘use’ them. So work on being respected and liked as an individual and you’ll naturally increase your influence on others.”

This article was originally published in Simply Her November 2014. 

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