Why are professional relationships important? How do you build connections to improve business?
In Thou Shall Prosper, Daniel Lapin advises recognizing that other people can be invaluable resources in your business pursuits. He notes that traditional Jewish beliefs can help you develop successful business relationships.
Let’s look at how to build professional relationships, according to Lapin.
The first thing to do when learning how to build professional relationships is to separate your personal and professional lives. It may be tempting to keep your friends and family apart from your business. However, Lapin says that your closest personal connections can be your strongest source of inspiration. Jewish wisdom teaches that your work will only succeed if you have the approval of your friends or family; their support will give you the motivation and passion you need to be successful.
(Shortform note: In Jewish tradition, strong connections are both supportive and challenging. Jews believe that a major part of any good relationship is debating and pushing each other to learn and improve. Therefore, the support of your friends and family is helpful for more than just motivation: They can also discuss and debate your business decisions with you, helping you to find potential weaknesses in your business practices. The Jewish penchant for arguing gave rise to the humorous saying “two Jews, three opinions,” which suggests that a single Jew might hold multiple, conflicting opinions about a single topic.)
Lapin adds that developing strong bonds with your coworkers will also motivate you to succeed in your work. Just like close friends and family would, you and your coworkers can provide each other with support, encouragement, and reminders about why you’re all passionate about your work.
(Shortform note: Modern research arguably supports Lapin’s assertion that businesses do better when they encourage strong bonds between coworkers. This is because close friends tend to communicate well, which helps them to do their work more effectively. They also keep each other motivated. However, don’t just try to develop strong bonds with people at your own level on the corporate ladder; healthy relationships between company leadership and employees also improve business outcomes. Some studies have found that employees who feel valued by their bosses are more engaged with their work, happier, and more productive than those who simply feel like cogs in a machine. As a result, the companies they work for see increased profits and higher customer satisfaction.)
Be Friendly and Confident to Form Strong Relationships
Lapin adds that, in order to easily form strong business relationships, you have to be the kind of person others want to do business with: someone they see as likable and trustworthy. Note that this doesn’t simply mean acting friendly, or pretending to be confident so others will trust you and then give you what you want—it means actually changing yourself to become a friendly, confident person who cares about and is interested in others. Genuine change is necessary because people will eventually see through a fake personality; once they do, you’ll lose their trust and their business.
|Change Yourself by Changing Your Thoughts
Lapin says that to succeed in networking, you must become a genuinely friendly and confident person. But what if you’re more introverted and self-oriented—is it possible to change your nature?
In Meditations, Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius suggests that you can change what kind of person you are by changing what you think about. For example, if you wanted to become more friendly and trustworthy as Lapin suggests, instead of focusing on yourself, you might concentrate on thoughts of what you like about other people and how running your business honestly will make others’ lives better.
This method of changing yourself comes from ancient philosophy, but it’s supported by modern neuroscience. In Behave, neurologist Robert Sapolsky explains that your brain physically changes in response to what you experience, which in turn changes your abilities and your personality. In other words, your brain works like your muscles: The parts of your brain that you use frequently become stronger, while the parts that you don’t use very often get weaker. This is called neuroplasticity. Because of neuroplasticity, repeatedly thinking about befriending and helping others—envisioning yourself as a friendly and confident person—may, over time, change your brain so that you become that kind of person.