What do Three Cups of Tea and Relationship Building Have in Common?

Mary Rosenbaum | May 20th, 2010

Make building relationships an integral part of your personal brand.

I had two very different experiences that made me think about writing on the topic of relationship building. One was an article I read in the NYTimes magazine section this past Sunday. It focused on our fixation with statistics. Watching our stats on social media sites is becoming as ubiquitous for social media marketers as the Dow Jones Industrial Average is for Wall Street professionals. But what are they really measuring? Are they measuring commitment, professional curiosity, respect or search or exchange of knowledge? What they are not measuring is relationship building. And relationship building is a critical underpinning to building your career, your business, and your personal and professional life.

The other prompt to writing this was an event I attended in support of the American Place Theater (www.americanplacetheater.org) where Greg Mortenson, author of “3 Cups of Tea”, spoke. He told a story that clarified what the reference was for the title of his book. It all started when he found himself disoriented and physically weakened from his hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro in Pakistan. When he descended he was taken in by a village elder who offered him a cup of tea. Over time the village elder described what the offering of tea symbolizes:

The first time I offer you tea it is as a stranger.

The second time it is as an honored guest.

The third time it is as a friend.

Unlike major cities, relationships in these small villages develop with time moving at a glacial pace. When the shift from honored guest to friend finally occurred Mr. Mortenson understood the value he derived from the time he spent in building these relationships – personal and professional growth and satisfaction.

Relationship building takes time because it’s built on a foundation of mutual trust. And mutual trust develops through a shared spirit of generosity. And yes, relationships can be developed through social media online (and then nurtured offline whenever possible). But that takes time and what the village elder was saying, as was the NYTimes article, rushing through life adding up your numbers won’t get you what you want in life – friends and colleagues who support one another.

If you are out looking for a job or career change or seeking to grow your own business chances are that your first outreach is to people you know, rightly so. Those people can be considered your first degree of separation – you know them, they will pick up the phone when you call, and you can ask them for something. You have a relationship with them.

Now let’s take a look at our connections through social media. It’s easy to confuse large numbers of followers on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook as something more meaningful than what they really are: people who think you have something to say and they want to keep abreast of what you and perhaps thousands of others are saying. It’s all very flattering and makes us all feel good. And in some situations, these online connections can grow into real relationships, whether they remain online or move offline. But it’s important to keep your eye on the ball – creating more relationships that can fall into the category of first degree of separation – and not focus on just the stats.

We all know how to make friends – get to know them, share some laughs and good times and generally support each other. Building relationships around business is pretty much the same. You want to:

1. Maintain a spirit of generosity. Give without thinking about how you can personally profit from it – whether it’s information, time, assistance. I have always talked about the Law of Reciprocity. Whenever I give to others I know that whenever possible that person will try to give back when they can. It’s not always a quid pro quo but it never fails to result in a positive experience.

2. Take time away from the computer and make sure you are meeting up with people in the real world. Transactions usually take place in real time and in the real world, whether face to face or on the phone. There is nothing that can replace the connection you make when you can personally shake hands and look them in the eye or hear the tone in their voice during a conversation.

One way to take your online friends offline – create a meet-up in your own town. Out of town? Let your contacts know and make time for some face to face.

3. Call even when you are not selling or asking for anything. In fact, call because you don’t want anything from them. By continuing to maintain contact you are gaining more insight into the other person, learning more about their business, and understanding their needs. Sharing information when you are not looking to gain something helps build a level of trust over time. And trust is what relationships and friendships are based on.

So take the time and move toward that third cup of tea and enjoy the status of friend.

What other pointers do you have for taking relationships into the real world?

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years Mary Rosenbaum helps careerists and entrepreneurs position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.

Follow me on Twitter @Careersguru

4 Response to “What do Three Cups of Tea and Relationship Building Have in Common? ”

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Henriette Weber
May 21, 2010
10:11 pm

Comment :

makes perfect sense for me – very inspirational. I like the “first you get to meet me, then you get to know me, then you get to trust me” approach of it. thanks =)

Mary Rosenbaum
May 26, 2010
8:22 am

Comment :

Thanks so much for the comment Henriette. Glad you found it helpful.

Steve
May 28, 2010
5:29 am

Comment :

makes perfect sense for me – very inspirational. I like the “first you get to meet me, then you get to know me, then you get to trust me” approach of it. thanks =)

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