You have to find ways to invest in others or make relationship currency deposits. Finds ways to become an asset to others and in quantifiable measures, add value to their efforts. Those who understand the true value of a relationship will find a way to reciprocate-maybe not today, tomorrow, or this year, but reciprocity is a natural and undisputable law in the favor economy.

Unfortunately, many people overlook the critical nature of such reciprocity in favor of focusing solely on their own situation. Another observation that I’ve made at many functions has been the perpetual nature of many to think, what’s in it for me? In essence, they attend functions with their hand out. To recipients of this posture, the interaction becomes a complete turnoff, as it is perceived to be insincere and self-serving. Questions that should be conversational come across as an interrogation, and the person probing often asks intimate questions about information most people are not comfortable sharing with someone that they met just 15 seconds before. Their comments come across as scripted or somehow manufactured. They are, in essence, harvesting conversations.

Compare and contrast this approach with the one that we coach participants in our workshops to use, which involves investing most of their efforts in engaging the other person to really understand what they are about. Take the time to understand their issues and challenges, and give them a reason to want to get to know you better. If you add value to every conversation with a unique perspective, the comment you most often tend to hear is, “Wow, I never thought of it that way.” And the perception becomes one of continued interest for a follow-up dialogue.

When I meet an executive or individual for the first time, I’m not gauging whether we can do business together, whether we can do a project together, or whether he can help me. Instead, I’m assessing, does this person understand and value relationships? And if I start by making a deposit-by finding a way to become an asset in solving their challenges-will he find a way to reciprocate? It is important to point out that I am not talking about only doing for others who are going to do for you, but as we all know, it is a lot easier to ask for a withdrawal after you have made a deposit.

According to the psychological perspective of former PepsiCo, Lucent, and HP human resources executive and friend, Pat Dailey, Ph.D., “establishing relationships is a process of successive disclosures. You give me a little of you, I take it and make a judgment. I give you a little of me, you absorb it and make a judgment.” This evolutionary process comes to fruition faster for those with the DNA to process the give and take more quickly. However, you certainly don’t have to be slick and quick to become an efficient relationship builder. In our experience, everyone has a unique pace in mastering these skills and behaviors and it is critical to clearly understand the line of too much, too fast in the early stages of relationship formation.

Every job has its issues and challenges. At the next networking function, start by asking people how you can be an asset to them. Think about who you know that can help them and how you can make an impactful deposit for this person.

I have a personal three-touch rule that I follow. I will make three investments without expecting anything in return.

As I meet individuals who are looking for knowledge, talent, or an introduction to an influential relationship, I’ll go out of my way to somehow become an asset to them. But the fundamental challenge is that you simply don’t have enough bandwidth to invest in all of your relationships equally. How you prioritize which relationships you invest in has to become congruent with your relationship-centric goals and objectives and your individual definition for a return on your relationship investments.

Everyone is tuned in to the same FM station-WIIFM. What’s In It For Me? The next time you meet someone, instead of having your hand out and wondering what she can do for you, lend a hand by asking, “How can I really get to know this person and find ways to become an asset to her? How can I find ways to create quantifiable value for her?”

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