What if relationships showed up on our balance sheets like our businesses and other investments do?

Relationships as a Measure of Net Worth: How to Build Healthy Connections

As a financial advisor, I’m used to measuring net worth in terms of dollars. But what if we measured it by the number of meaningful relationships we build throughout our lifetime? As Warren Buffett once said, “When you get to my age, you’ll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you. ” It’s not about money or material possessions, but about being loved and building deep, meaningful connections with others.

It’s no secret that relationships play a crucial role in our lives. According to Robert Waldinger, director of one of the world’s longest studies of adult life, our relationships and how happy we are in them have a powerful influence on our health. The Harvard study has shown that building trust-based relationships with people is (more) key (than material possessions) to long-term happiness in life.

It is important to note that although relationships are key to success in life, I am reminded of this sobering truth by my friend Dr. Matt Morris, family therapist, “Relationships are hard. They’re wonderful and hard. Sometimes wonderfully hard, and sometimes hardly wonderful. ”

So, how do we go about building lasting trust-based relationships?

It’s not easy, and there’s no easy button for it, but there are some basic principles we can follow.

I admit the following principles are fairly easy to understand and intuitively obvious, yet we often fail to live according to them. It’s often the case that we need to be reminded of the basics.

Before you dive into the 5 principles below, think about the people you’d like to strengthen your relationships with. Maybe it’s a spouse, a child, a business partner, or a client. Allow the following to be a prompt for you to grow that relationship.

Principle 1: Be empathetic

Empathy connects people. It draws people to you. It’s magnetic. Dr. Matt Morris, LPC, LMFT

Empathy is a critical aspect of building strong relationships, whether they are personal or professional. As humans, we have a natural tendency to focus on our own needs and desires. However, when we step outside ourselves and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we open ourselves up to a world of understanding and connection.

Empathy demands that we put others first and share in their emotions to see things and feel things from their perspective.

Research shows that empathy is a common trait of likable and lovable people and is also critical for team performance. A study by Ddi, a global leadership consulting firm, found that the ability to listen and respond with empathy was the most important driver of a team’s overall performance. Similarly, Carl Rogers, a psychologist, in his classic book Client-Centered Therapy: Its Practice, Implications, and Theory, identified three conditions necessary to bring about constructive client change, and one of them was accurate empathy.

To become more empathetic, we should talk less and listen more. When we listen, we should do so without judgment, offering advice, or interrupting. Instead, we should show others that we are truly listening and understand their perspective. Restating what the other person has said is also an excellent way to ensure we truly understand their perspective. Additionally, we should avoid distractions like our phones, which can hinder our ability to be fully present with others.

If you are in the business of giving advice, it is essential to take the time to understand the other person’s point of view before offering advice or solutions. Good advice given at the wrong time can be ineffective.

Empathy is foundational to building strong relationships with others. By prioritizing others’ perspectives and showing them that we truly care, we can foster deeper connections and ultimately improve our relationships. So let’s try to listen more, talk less, and be more present with those around us.

One of the best ways to grow in empathy towards others leads us to principle number 2.

Principle 2: Be Curious

Be genuinely interested in everyone you meet, and everyone you meet will be genuinely interested in you. Rasheed Ogunlaru

The second principle to building lasting trust-based relationships is to be curious. Curiosity is not only a way to grow empathy, but it is also a powerful tool for creating connections with others. To deepen your relationships with others, Daniel Solin, in his book Ask, recommends you try becoming the most interested person in the room instead of the most interesting. You can have interesting conversations and build better relationships by being genuinely curious about others.

Young kids may be the most curious creatures on earth. Although their persistent “Why?” questions can irritate their parents at times, we should take a play out of their playbook and learn to ask follow-up questions.

According to the science of selling (is this a title? If so, it should be capitalized and italicized), David Hoofeld says, “The human brain is hardwired to disclose information in levels. It’s like peeling an onion; one layer leads to the next.”

If we genuinely want to get to know people, we need to ask good follow-up questions.

A key to asking better questions is to become curious and to remain curious. To become curious, try not to end any sentence with a period. Instead, try to make statements into questions that invite open-ended responses.

Terry Gross, the master interviewer for NPR’s Fresh Air, says a key to a good interview is to open with, “Tell me about yourself”. Although it’s not a question, it is a non-declarative statement that invites people to open up.

Ask timeless questions that transcend current issues and focus on passions, challenges, and interests.

Good open-ended questions include “Why do you think you enjoyed that so much? ” and “If you had to do it over, what would you do differently? ” start your question with, “I’m curious… ” or “I’ve been wondering about something… ” to encourage others to open up. Question tone also matters. A tone of curiosity is light, expansive, and encouraging rather than demanding, brooding, or sarcastic.

When asking questions, try not to steer the conversation or offer anything declarative unless specifically asked. It’s essential to remember that people do not care what you know until they know that you care.

Here is a warning: we have a proclivity to want to talk about ourselves. If you find yourself in a conversation where there is a lack of reciprocity, where you ask questions, and they never ask about you, try not to take it personally and leave feeling that it was a waste of time. Research shows that asking follow-up questions leads to increased neural activity in the areas of the brain associated with reward and pleasure for the question answerer. You are creating an enjoyable experience for those you interact with. You will be remembered well and possibly held in higher esteem than if you did all the talking.

Don’t worry. You will come across people that will match your curiosity. Those relationships will blossom into beautiful friendships.

Give it a try at your next work meeting, leadership meeting, kid’s school event, or networking event. Bring a bucketful of curiosity, and identify people you’d like to know better.

You can build lasting trust-based relationships by being curious and genuinely interested in others.

Principle 3: Compliment Others

Too often, we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

The third principle to building lasting trust-based relationships with people is to compliment them. A study conducted by Harvard business review found that people often underestimate the positive impact of a compliment on the recipient. Participants in the study were asked to estimate how someone would feel after receiving a compliment, and then actually complimented someone and compared their estimation to the actual response. The study found that receiving a compliment made people feel much better than anticipated, leaving them feeling appreciated and valued.

The study also found that people desire to give more compliments but often forgo the opportunity.

Neuroscientists have even shown that the brain processes verbal affirmations similarly to financial rewards. Compliments are deposits into people’s emotional bank accounts, building trust, loyalty, and confidence. They make people feel seen and valued.

However, it’s essential to ensure that compliments are genuine and others-focused, demonstrating empathy. Disingenuous compliments are a withdrawal from others’ emotional bank accounts.

When giving compliments, praise others for their effort, behavior, and ideas. However, be cautious when complimenting someone’s appearance. Link the compliment to a genuine feeling, be authentic, and be specific with your words.

Compliments are like deposits of gold into people’s relational bank accounts. Every compliment is like a little brick in the foundation of your relationships and goes a long way in building trust-based relationships.

Compliments are free and yet priceless. And a wonderful side effect of giving compliments is that it tends to make you and the receiver grateful. In gratefulness, we find the seeds of happiness and contentment. So, don’t miss any opportunity to give a genuine compliment and make someone’s day brighter, all the while deepening your relationship.

Principle 4: Reach Out To Others

We have a fundamental need to have personal, meaningful connection, so when people reach out to others, this starts a biochemical reaction of hormones and neurotransmitters such as oxytocin (bonding and resilience), dopamine (reward and motivation), endorphins (feel good and pain relief) and DHEA (anti-aging). Rachel Taylor, PhD

The fourth principle is closely related to complementing others and has similar benefits.

Research shows that reaching out to people can have a significant positive impact on the relationship.

The study by the University of Pittsburgh’s Peggy J. Liu The Surprise of Reaching Out: Appreciated More Than We Think states that people are fundamentally social beings and enjoy connecting with others…”

Peggy j. Liu and her coauthors say, “We hope that our findings will encourage people to reach out to their social contacts more often, ‘just because.’ Such small gestures are likely to be appreciated more than people predict.”

Like giving compliments, we often underestimate how much our gesture will be appreciated. Surveys suggest this is because we aren’t thinking about how surprising it is to hear from someone unexpectedly. Reach out to people about unexpected things at unexpected times.

When you think of someone, don’t hesitate to take action. You can call them, send them a text, or even send them a shared memory from the past. Let them know they are on your mind, just because.

Try to avoid automation when possible. Automating certain aspects of maintaining contact with people is convenient and has its place, but those connections are often impersonal and lack the thoughtfulness of a personalized message. Take the extra 2 minutes, as my friend David Carothers would say, to connect with people meaningfully, demonstrating you care about them and they are important to you.

Practice your empathy when you reach out to someone to ensure your gesture fits the individual and the relationship. What works for one person may not work for another, so take the time to consider the person’s likes and dislikes.

Don’t pass up on an opportunity to reach out to someone you care to deepen a relationship with. Just like giving a compliment, reaching out is relational gold. Combine the two, and reach out to give a compliment!

Principle 5: Be Sincere

Sincerity makes the very least person to be of more value than the most talented hypocrite. Charles Spurgeon

When building lasting trust-based relationships, sincerity is an essential principle and, as you’ve already seen, is woven throughout the first four principles. It’s hard to succeed in any relationship, whether personal or professional if you are not sincere.

When we are sincere, we communicate honestly and authentically. We are genuine in our actions and words, and we let others know that we are trustworthy. This can lead to a deeper level of understanding and a stronger bond between people.

Stephen Dubner, the co-author of Freakonomics, believes that sincerity is the single most important thing that makes a leader successful. People are naturally drawn to genuine and sincere people, and they are more likely to follow and trust someone who embodies these qualities. Sincerity is central to generating trust and crucial for healthy, meaningful relationships.

On the flip side, insincerity is a relationship killer. Insincerity creates a barrier between people, making it difficult to build trust and establish a real connection.

Think about a time when someone was disingenuous with you. How did it make you feel? Did it damage your relationship with that person? When someone is not sincere, it creates a sense of distrust and betrayal that can be challenging to overcome.

Being sincere is vital for building lasting trust-based relationships, as it cultivates a sense of security.

How wealthy are you?

So what if your relationships showed up on your balance sheet? How wealthy are you? How wealthy do you want to be? If you’ve gotten this far, my guess is you want to be Warren Buffet-type wealthy.

In finances, there are 2 ways to increase your net worth. Gather more assets or pay off debts. If there are those with whom you have strained relationships, and it is in your power to employ some of the principles we discussed, do it. It’s like paying off a debt. If there are those you are looking to connect with, you have a blueprint above. Add those relationships to your balance sheet.

Wealth is not built overnight. It is built and gathered over time. Be empathetic, be curious, compliment others, reach out to somebody, and above all, be sincere.

About Erica

Erica has a B.A. in Communication from the University of South Alabama, where she focused her studies on Public Relations and Business Management.

Erica is a gifted communicator and administrator with a deep understanding of her clients' needs. She is committed to providing our clients with the best possible experience and helping them achieve their financial goals.

In her role at Plan Wisely, she began working with us in a marketing director capacity for several years. Now, as a Client Relationship Representative, she assists with client services, account maintenance, scheduling, and other financial planning tasks.

Erica is a valuable asset to the Plan Wisely Wealth Advisors team and is passionate about helping you achieve your financial goals. She is willing to go the extra mile for her clients and is dedicated to providing them with the best possible service.