6 min read

At this point in my life, I am convinced that there is nothing more sacred and important than interpersonal relationships. Family, friendships, and romantic relationships.

I doubt much convincing is necessary here, but all roads lead to relationships:

  • People who want power are hungry for acceptance and validation within their relationships
  • People who want fame are hungry for acceptance and validation within their relationships
  • People who want wealth want to buy things to impress and therefore lead to acceptance and validation within their relationships
  • People who want a comfortable income want to trade that disposable income for experiences to share within their relationships
  • People who just want to get by already recognize that the real importance is within their relationships
  • …and more

Earlier this week, I was reflecting on what attributes have helped me to form my strongest friendships:

In typical Twitter fashion, I was too brief and omitted one very important skill. But, I wanted to provide a little context behind each of them.

1. Positivity

Not only is being positive endearing to the people around you, but it rewires your own disposition. When your automatic response is to look for the good in everyone, every situation, and every moment, you just feel better.

“Creating value for those around you is a…rewarding experience. Whether it’s on the level of creating a business that provides a service that improves someone’s life, or just being a beacon of positivity. This has been an especially helpful shift when trying to raise sponsorship for an organization or event. After talking with my roommate Joey, he opened my eyes to the power of asking someone, “What can I do to make this a valuable experience/investment for you?” Just that small shift shows appreciation and respect, lowers barriers, and really forms a much more beneficial and effective connection.” (Read more from my post on “Positivity”)

And there’s no reason not to be positive. Whatever issue you’re wrestling with, whatever worry is on your mind, it is completely temporary. Everything is going to be fine. When you can keep that perspective in mind, and share that perspective with others, you’ll attract a lot of people.

2. Listening

Whether we like to admit it or not, the most important thing to any of us (even on an evolutionary level), is our own well being. Now that we’ve evolved past the point of having to worry about literal survival every day, we find other things to worry ourselves with. Whatever is on our mind, we love to share that with an audience.

“People love to talk about themselves, and they love when people listen, and you’re accomplishing both of those things. Suddenly, you’ll be thought of as a great conversationalist! It’s endearing.

I really enjoy being the third party in conversations because of this. Very frequently, I don’t have anything worth saying. But, I can shut up, listen, and contribute where appropriate. It’s in these interactions that I find myself learning the most.” (Read more from my post “just shut up”)

3. Generosity

Being generous isn’t about giving material gifts, or about giving someone money, and certainly not about giving for the hope of receiving. I’m talking about generosity of yourself. Your time. Similarly to rewiring your brain for positivity, you can rewire it to consider the hopes and wants and needs of those around you.

People who are naturally thoughtful (generosity is largely a result of being thoughtful) and much better to be around than those who are selfish. Being selfish isn’t always premeditated – in fact, in my experience most selfish individuals I meet are not intentionally selfish, they just aren’t being thoughtful or generous.

4. Dependability (reliability)

Simply put, if you say you are going to do something, follow through on it. When you don’t follow through or deliver on promises, you decrease the value of your word. It is no coincidence that one of the oldest concepts to humanity is one’s “honor” or excellence of character.

Not to mention, no one wants to make plans with flaky people.

5. Discretion (trust)

This is a big one I don’t think gets talked about enough. The desire for and value placed on trust has been written about at length. Without trust, it’s impossible to form the basis of any relationship. At this point in our evolutionary history, when blatant betrayals in a dangerous or survival sense are no longer an issue, trust is built on discretion.

The adored but still relatively little-known Bill Campbell, Silicon Valley’s “CEO whisperer,” knew the value of discretion well.

“Whenever I struggled with life, Bill was the person that I called. I didn’t call him because he would have the answer to some impossible question. I called him because he would understand what I was feeling 100%.” – Ben Horowitz

“Because they trusted Campbell—his empathy, experience, and discretion—they sought his counsel. Because he was their biggest cheerleader, they adored him. Even when Steve Jobs declared war on Google, after it launched a competitor to the iPhone, Campbell continued to separately advise both Apple and Google. Unlike Winfrey, Campbell had executive experience and technical skills that went far beyond being a sharp questioner and an empathetic listener.” (Read more from Postscript: Bill Campbell, 1940-2016 from the New Yorker)

Having both the respect and proper instinct on what information to share (or not share) and with whom, is an invaluable skill in gaining trust and strengthening relationships.

6. Authenticity

“There is simply nothing more refreshing, admirable, and brave about someone who is their authentic self 100% of the time. I know “predictability” can be boring, but if someone is predictably and dependably authentic, those are the people I want in my life.

At some point…I started breaking down my personal Berlin Wall. To be honest, I’m not really sure when this decision set in, or how, or why…I began letting the people I respected see my quirks, I saw a much different result from what I expected.

I did not lose their respect, I did not earn a worse reputation, and I did not feel embarrassed or afraid to be myself. In fact, the exact opposite was true: my relationships strengthened and multiplied.

There is just something electric about knowing your relationship and interactions with a person are real. No hidden judgment, no facades, no bullshit. This is me, and you can decide to feel about me how you want (though I hope it’s positively!).

A lot of the people I respect have echoed a hard truth — sometimes, you have to fire people from your life. Do you know who are the very first people to be fired? People who are disingenuous.” (Read more from my post “authenticity is liberating”)

Further reading:

don’t talk shit

one question to form relationships faster

the best way to find a mentor

Recommended book:

By far and away, my favorite book of all time is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I highly suggest picking up a copy.