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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brady

Reputation and Relationships

There is an old saying that goes like this, “Trust is the coin of the realm and if you don’t have the coin keep moving.”

In essence what this is saying is that your words and your actions need to be one and the same. So if you are known by the people you associate with as a liar or thief then that is your reputation, and you carry your reputation with you wherever you go.

We have all met that person who can never make it more than a few years working for a company. They always seem to have some complaint about who they work with, or work for. It goes something like this, those people are such back stabbers you just can’t trust anyone there. Or I am never given an opportunity they always pick someone else. What are these comments pointing to? From my experience as an observer of people most of the time it breaks down to a lack of building meaningful relationships with the people we choose to spend time with, and isn’t that what we are doing when we work with a company or group of people?

First off when choosing to do business with people it’s important to understand their motivations and their values, if you don’t share their values you don’t want to share their company period.

It’s like when choosing people who you hope to become friends with, always observe their behavior and see how it matches up with their words. Ultimately we want to surround ourselves with people that in some way help us to improve. Then it’s our turn to reciprocate in modeling positive behavior that helps to elevate them.

So then let’s talk about why this is a difficult task for so many of us, to separate the wheat from the chaff, the virtuous from the pirates of the world. I think once we start to dissect the issue we see relationships are built on trust and your reputation is a direct result of doing what you say you stand for. Another key ingredient in building relationships is that your behavior is considered admirable by those who surround you. People buy into what they trust and admire, predictability is an important indicator of your reliability. We all know those people we can rely on to pick up the phone at odd hours and say yes to helping a friend in need. We also quickly learn who are fair weather friends.

So how can we make sure we are staying true to our own compass and walking the path we espouse? Let’s use the compass analogy and go a little further with it. A compass uses a small magnetic pin, suspended in liquid to be able to spin freely and line up with the top of our planet’s magnetic field. All magnets have a positive and negative side, so one points north and the other side points south. The compass is a very handy tool to help orient us when we are in the woods or out at sea. One drawback of the compass though is that it’s susceptible to being pulled off course by another strong magnetic device. As an experiment, take a compass and place it on a table, then take a magnet and bring it close to the compass on the right or left side. What you will notice is the compass will swing to that side, the compass will be effected by the pull of the other magnetic field.

I know most of you are saying, “duh everyone knows that.” The reason I am using this as an example is because we are the same as a compass in our susceptibility to being pulled off course. Everyone has a compass so to speak and it points to our true north, what we believe represents our best self. Sometimes that compass is magnetized by someone or something and no longer will give us a true reading, for an example see my article on the danger of crowds. So when that happens, when we are out of calibration it’s important to have a few tools that can get us fixed up and put back on course.

There are a few tools that I use on a daily basis to make sure what I am doing is in alignment with my values and is building trust in my name. Let’s start our day with some time for quiet reflection. Do this as soon as you wake up, don’t even get out of bed just lay there and think of what you are grateful for. Take a moment and speak with your god, whoever it is. Taking the time to do this will bring a tremendous sense of calm over you and allow for some reflection. Then throughout the day whenever you are waiting in line, on the phone or perhaps at lunch, think about what you are going to do or say next and ask yourself, “do these actions represent what I stand for?” Those few moments of pause will allow you to make sure your compass is always calibrated.

The truth is we have to live and work around people who are sometimes if not most of the time out of alignment with what our values are. We need to constantly remind ourselves of that and guard against being influenced by others to lower our own standards. Inevitably it will happen; we will let ourselves down and not live up to our own standards. If this happens, remember that the Key to gaining and keeping trust with the people we are building relationships with is by quickly righting the wrong and getting back on track. Don’t ignore it when you make a breach of trust. Own it. Make amends and move forward. People are relatively forgiving given the opportunity because after all, we all make mistakes.

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