Business, like any other field, is ultimately more about personality than skill. And indeed, businesspeople and entrepreneurs with better people skills have a competitive edge over others. While these skills take more time, and are much more difficult to master, than simple technical and mechanical abilities, they’re well worth it. To put it simply, everybody would rather work with people that they enjoy being around. Therefore, if you’re likable, you can attract new clients while maintaining positive, long-term business relationships with not that much effort. When clients are looking for somebody to hire, they base their search on if somebody is believable, likable and ultimately trustworthy. No matter how competent you are, if somebody doesn’t like you, then they’ll be a lot less likely to work with you. I recently came across an article that discusses the three most important traits in a likable business partner, which, according to the author, are empathy, reliability and integrity.
Empathy is your ability to relate to and understand somebody’s situation and perspective. Indeed, strong and enduring relationships are mostly built on empathy. This skill requires self-awareness, practice and experience. Your personal and professional life’s ups and downs will influence both how and with whom you empathize. Common experience is able to connect people through an instant bond and shared level of trust. For instance, if you’ve experienced something like losing a job, starting a business, struggling financially or losing somebody you loved, then you can empathize with somebody who has experienced the same thing. Of course, empathy doesn’t mean that you need to agree with others’ opinions, or try to please everybody. Instead, you need to consider the feelings of your employees, partners and colleagues when you’re making decisions, which you can learn by reacting less, listening more and trying to put yourself in the other person’s position.
It’s important that a business is reliable, responsible and dependable. When somebody needs help with something, they’re going to call up somebody that they can count on. It’s about doing your job well in a timely and reasonable fashion. Many of the most successful companies in the world have a reputation for being consistent. If you’re in a foreign country and don’t speak the language, but see a Starbucks, you know that that cup of Starbucks will taste just the same there as it will back in the US. Customers are attracted to this sense of security, since it provides a peace of mind for which most people are willing to pay a little extra. It’s important to cultivate a reputation for reliability. Deliver on a promise, and if you can’t fulfill your responsibilities, let your client know as soon as possible. While an unavoidable mistake won’t necessarily scare away customers, misjudgment and deception definitely will.
Unfortunately, a lack of integrity has become commonplace in our culture. Integrity is the highest level of professionalism. It’s about doing what you know is right, no matter what, and standing up for what you believe in and having the courage to speak up. Warren Buffett once said that when you look to hire people, it’s important that they have integrity, intelligence and energy. While many people in the business world have intelligence and energy, not as many have integrity. Those who do, however, are greatly rewarded. Positive relationships, whether they’re personal or professional, require integrity and honesty. While it might be difficult to behave your best on a bad day, it’s more than worth it.