How to cultivate relationships with new people

Cultivating relationships (both personal and professional) can be tough. Where do you even begin?

A woman sits alone on the floor, having coffee and using her laptop

The older we get, the more set in our ways we become. Yet for many of us, it isn’t a lack of desire for change and improvement that is holding us back. It’s as though, over time, we forget how to begin building new relationships, with new people, across many different areas of life.

When we first start out in our careers, we get many new opportunities to meet colleagues, learn, and network without necessarily realising we are doing it. Yet as we progress, and the expectations of us grow (set by ourselves and others), the importance of cultivating these relationships can fall to the wayside, as our attention becomes split between our many other obligations and new tasks that fall upon us.

Similarly, when it comes to growing and fostering relationships outside of work, say when we move to a new area and wish to make friends or build connections with neighbours, so too can it be difficult to know how to fit that in around everything else.

So, what exactly do we mean by cultivating relationships with new people, and how can we go about it to improve our personal and professional lives? 

What do we mean by ‘cultivating new relationships’?

At its core, cultivating new relationships is about creating positive, healthy relationships with others. This could be in the form of a professional relationship, where you may focus on mutual reliability, consistency, healthy boundaries, and reciprocity. Or it could be in the form of a personal relationship, where you practice many of the same focuses, as well as empathy, fairness, openness and honesty.

No matter what type of relationship you are looking to cultivate, it’s important to stay true to who you are, as well as to create healthy, consistent levels of communication.

Why is cultivating relationships important?

In our work lives, our professional relationships can help us to gain support and improve teamwork within our companies, as well as boosting our overall network to help with career progression, development and growth. 

Personally, cultivating relationships can allow for a richer social life, more connections to our local community, can support our overall sense of well-being, and even boost our resilience when feeling stressed or overwhelmed, as you have a ready-made support network on hand. 

How do you cultivate positive relationships?

No matter what type of relationship (professional, personal, platonic, or romantic) you are looking to cultivate, there are some key areas you can focus on to help foster a healthier relationship that has the potential to last.

Practice empathy. No healthy relationship can be just about one person or their needs. The most successful partnerships are built around a sense of empathy. In essence, this means that you consciously consider how the other person may feel, then act respectfully and thoughtfully based on this. When we allow a sense of entitlement, selfish wants, or narcissism to guide our relationships, it can lead to resentment or hurt feelings.

Be thoughtful and generous. Emotional generosity means checking in with someone to show that you care and think about them without being prompted. This could be after a big life event if you are worried that someone may be anxious or stressed, or even just to see how they are doing. Practising thoughtfulness and generosity doesn’t have to be about gifts; you can be generous with your time, thoughtful with how you check in on others, and both thoughtful and generous with how you prioritise the needs of others.

Fairness and compromise. All relationships have some form of give and take. That doesn’t mean that things have to be 100% reciprocated, but it’s important that things don’t feel one-sided.  

Consistency is key. If you commit to doing something, it’s important that you do it. Whether that’s agreeing to help colleagues balance their workload, meeting up with friends, or even just spending device-free time with your partner. Nobody appreciates feeling like an afterthought or backup plan, and honestly? People only put up with that kind of behaviour for so long.

Cultivating positive relationships at work (and beyond)

As explained by one Life Coach Directory member, “For a successful career, you need to build positive and healthy relationships with your colleagues, clients and other stakeholders in your organisation. Think about your working relationships and how you can build and maintain stronger relationships that will help you to feel more engaged, and open doors to new opportunities and promotion. After all, the more you put into building positive relationships, the more you will get back.” 

If you’re still unsure what to try next to help cultivate positive, lasting relationships at work, consider:

  • Being more proactive. Offer to help colleagues without being asked by helping with other projects or tasks that contribute towards the wider team goals.
  • Ensuring timelines are communicated. We all run behind from time to time. While no one appreciates deadlines being missed (and there’s no quicker way to ruin your reputation), it’s important that you openly and honestly communicate with others if you are going to be late with something. This can give them time to readjust their own workloads to accommodate changes and could buy you some goodwill.
  • Make time for everyone (not just senior team members). Putting your best foot forward and supporting your boss or other senior members of your company is a great start. But ensuring you are helping everyone can help you to build a reputation as someone who is reliable, respectful, and a real team player. 

Ready to work with a coach to support your career, or considering expanding on your interpersonal skills? Use our search tool to find a coach today

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Written by Bonnie Evie Gifford
Bonnie Evie Gifford is a Senior Writer at Happiful.
Written by Bonnie Evie Gifford
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