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Building and Maintaining Individual Relationships

What are Individual Social Resources?

Individual social resources are the relationships that you personally have with other individuals. They include your relationships with your friends, family members, roommates, community members, teachers, coaches, people at work, and anyone else you know personally. To develop individual relationships, you need to invest your time into working with other individuals directly.

In his book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely distinguishes between two types of individual relationships: economic relationships and social relationships. Any relationships built around money and work are “economic relationships.” All other relationships are “social relationships.” Social relationships include neighbors, friends, family, members of a sports team you belong to, and members of religious groups you’re involved with. Economic relationships are useful for employment. We develop economic relationships as we interact with colleagues and customers at work. Social relationships tend to be more useful for life and family support. Many people spend a lot of social time with family members and their closest friends. Therefore, it is wise to consider and optimize your work, family, and friend relationships.

In the workplace, if you are competent, trustworthy, and good to people, you can develop many economic relationships and create a reputation for yourself. In my experience, many people have had very successful careers because of the individual economic relationships they created at work.

Some workplaces and schools push for competition between individuals. This competition can inhibit the creation of  individual relationships by discouraging individuals from sharing information and helping each other. 
Other workplaces and schools create team competitions to help build individual connections. Team competitions build social connections very quickly because people, especially men, form relationships more easily around shared goals and working toward those goals together.

Your closest relationships affect your life dramatically. Jim Rohn said, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Someone else said, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” In a recently published book titled Friend of a Friend: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career, David Burkus takes it a step further by sharing how your friends’ friends can affect your life too. All this points to one truth: it matters who your friends are and who you spend the most time with.

I have learned two effective approaches to build individual connections. The first strategy is to push yourself to become excellent at something, and then build relationships with others around you who want to excel in the same way. This can happen in video games, sports, the arts, and in top universities. Top graduate programs admit only excellent students, so if you are able to get in, all the faculty and other students will also be excellent. This strategy can be effective, but it can be difficult because you have to figure everything out on your own.

The second approach is to consider thoughtfully what you want to accomplish and then find people who can help you achieve your goals. This approach can be challenging because it can be difficult to find people to help you; however, it can be just exceptionally  effective if you find the right people. For example, when Steve Jobs was twelve years old, he called Bill Hewlett, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and asked for some electronic parts he needed for a project he was working on. He ended up getting both the parts and a summer job. Jobs later said, “Most people don’t get those experiences because they never ask . . . I’ve never found anyone that didn’t want to help me if I asked them for help.” -

Investing for Individual Relationship

Investing to find or maintain a good partner.

Make sure that you are investing sufficient time and money in finding and maintaining your relationship with your partner. About ninety minutes per week seems to be the minimum you need to invest in your partner relationship to avoid serious issues. Underinvesting in relationships with a partner or children can be necessary for some strategies such as becoming a doctor; however, it creates some real risks to your family business model. If you don’t make time for your partner, even in stressful times, you may have massive relationship issues, such as affairs, divorce or children with mental health issues, sexual issues, or drug abuse.

Build your relationships with key people.

Before trying to build relationships, focus on being trustworthy and reliable. You will need to fit in and be useful to people who you want to build relationships with. Most successful people are willing to help reliable goal-driven people; however, if you aren’t willing to put in the work or can’t be trusted, they won’t waste their time on you.

When trying to develop “economic” relationships, those based around money or work, make sure that you are being trustworthy, fair, and honest. If you are working, make sure that you are focused on being a productive employee and not wasting the company’s money. Choose jobs and companies with employees that you want to align yourself with and that will make you better.

When developing “social” relationships, those not based around money, make sure that the focus is on adding value to the other person and not trying to make extra money from them. Trying to use social relationships to sell products to your friends and family, like insurance and multi-level marketing (MLM), is a quick way to hurt and potentially destroy your social relationships. We all need some “social” relationships, so make sure you don’t underinvest here for long.

Investing Quick Guide

  • Improve your partner relationship and vision alignment by spending time with them. Review both people’s needs and wants, and resolve any conflict.
  • Improve coworker relationships by working to understand what they need and being trustworthy and reliable in delivering it.
  • Treat all people with whom you interact with decency and respect.
  • Spend time looking for people who will support your family business model, whether that is potential partners or friends.
  • Eliminate or minimize your relationships with people who aren’t a good influence on you or your family.
  • Eliminate or minimize relationships with untrustworthy or unethical people because they could take advantage of your resources and potentially destroy your family.
  • Find ways to serve your individual relationships.