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By Liz Reyer

RISMEDIA, Dec. 24, 2008-(MCT)-Q. I have a job that I like and some good friends, but I feel somewhat isolated professionally. I’d like to feel more connected with other people. Where can I start?

A. When you think about building relationships in business, focus on giving. Finding ways to help others will bring you meaningful and lasting connections.

The Inner Game

Visualize your goal. Explore your reasons for seeking additional connections. Fear may be your driver: If you lose your job, who will help you? You may feel that you’re missing a source of growth-or it may just sound like more fun.

Whatever is motivating you, consider what your life will be like once you’ve built more extensive connections. Also think about the balance between breadth and depth that works best for you.

Identify how you can help other people. Sharing your knowledge, introducing people who would benefit from knowing one another, or sending information that might help someone are just a few examples. You may find opportunities in professional organizations. Remember ways that others have helped you. Include non-business areas of life, too; this will broaden the scope of the relationships you form.

Overcome internal barriers. A common one is excess humility. It’s easy to downplay what you have to offer. If your list is short, pretend you’re discussing a friend instead of yourself. Your list will likely grow substantially.

There’s also some personal vulnerability that goes with reaching out to others. If you’re concerned about rejection, consider what would be the worst thing that could happen. It’s not likely to be something you can’t handle, especially if you’ve prepared.

The Outer Game

Start with being open. When you meet people, ask them about themselves, and share about yourself. Avoid becoming so preoccupied that you miss connecting with people around you. Take the time to create a kernel of relationship; it’ll be a well-spent moment.

Be attentive to follow-ups. Of course, deliver on your promises, but follow-ups can be more subtle than that. For example, you might offer unexpected help, such as informational interviews for a colleague’s graduating child. The key is to make helping others a priority. It does take some time, so make sure that investing in relationships doesn’t get pushed aside. Many of the steps you can take-a quick note or voice-mail-take just an instant and can make a real difference.

Be real. People can smell a phony, so if you’re insincere in your efforts, it will backfire. Tap into your reasons for building connections and cultivate genuine curiosity about people. When you interact from your authentic self, you’ll get positive responses.

Be willing to let others give, too. Relationships are a two-way street, and people you’ve helped will want to reciprocate. Asking for or accepting help can be hard, but it shows trust and openness. Letting others help you will make them happy, and everyone benefits.

The Last Word

Some people call it networking, but I think of it as building broad connections starting from the heart. In your business and personal lives, it will give you a safety net and a source of joy that enriches everyone involved.

Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes. Submit questions or comments about this column at Contact Liz at or 651-398-4765.

© 2008, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.