How to Build and Maintain Sustainable Relationships
Sustainable relationships, in business as in our personal lives, are meant to be mutually beneficial relationships that last. Based on open communication, honesty, support, and compromise, sustainable relationships take serious efforts to grow. The reward for that investment is a bond that you can trust to weather any storm.
In your personal life, this could be the friend that supports you through all of your highs and lows. In business, this could be your mentor, your colleague, or even your customers, as you share in the successes that come from a fulfilling professional relationship.
To enjoy the benefits of a sustainable relationship with customers, though, it’s important to know the foundations of what a sustainable relationship is.
In any context, a sustainable relationship is one that is built on a foundation of trust, communication, and mutual respect. For the effort it can take to sustain, the effort pays off for both parties.
While sustainable relationships can be found in both the personal and professional parts of our lives, they all have the following qualities in common:
- Open communication
- Mutual support
- Willingness to compromise
- Regular shows of appreciation
- A commitment to the relationship
Though identifying a sustainable relationship can be fairly straightforward, immediately seeing the benefits of one may take time. This is especially true with the idea of sustainability, since that often comes into long-term discussions.
So, just what are the benefits of a sustainable relationship, both in terms of now and in the future?
- More Support, Less Stress – Because communication is improved when both parties view the relationship as long-lasting, a sustainable relationship is often one that is both more supportive and less stressful to maintain.
- Stability – Some relationships can feel entirely transactional. By contrast, a sustainable relationship provides a sense of stability and security that outlasts any single sales call.
- Health – Sustainable relationships can also help improve mental and physical health. Studies show that people in supportive and close relationships tend to have lower levels of stress and anxiety, and better overall physical health.
So, what does it take to create a sustainable relationship?
Building a sustainable relationship is not easy. It takes time, energy, and effort. But it is worth it.
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, there are some key ingredients that can help.
- Communicate – This is the most important quality of a sustainable relationship. Talk about your needs, your wants, and your expectations.
- Support Each Other – Be there for your partner when they need you. Listen to them, lean on them, and help them through tough times.
- Respect Each Other – Treat them with respect and kindness. Show them that you care about them and their feelings.
- Be Patient – Relationships take time to grow and develop. Be patient with your partner and yourself.
- Be Honest – Honesty is key in any relationship. Be honest with your partner about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
While this can sound overly personal, this works well in professional settings, too. By treating a client or customer like this, you’ll be surprised at the benefits that come.
As is true for anything we decide to invest ourselves into, there are certain risks and disadvantages to sustainable relationships.
- Difficult to Maintain – A sustainable relationship requires effort and commitment from both partners. If one partner is not willing to put in the work, that imbalance can lead to the other feeling resentment, frustration, or fatigue.
- Hard To Find – It can be challenging to find someone who is also interested in a sustainable relationship. Most people are not looking for relationships that require work and effort. They want something easy, even if those easier, more transactional relationships don’t have as many rewards in the long run.
- Risky – Like other relationships, you want to be thoughtful about just who you enter into sustainable relationships with. Given that we all have limits to our available time and mental energy, it’s important to invest yours in the people who are best for you.
After establishing what a sustainable relationship is and its benefits, it’s helpful to know how to start fostering one.
Whether you’re turning an existing professional relationship into a more sustainable one or starting from scratch, these are a few ways to get building.
- Make Time – We’re all busy. So when we sense that someone is taking the time to prioritize us or our relationship, that action stands out. You can make that impression by scheduling time for the sustainable relationship, then sticking to it.
- Listen – Like any strong relationship, listening is fundamental. Give your partner your full attention — no email writing or notification checking. It is also effective to make a few notes after your conversations to follow-up on later.
- Speak Up – In professional settings, it’s easy to take the non-confrontational route and just agree with someone, even if it goes against how you really feel. However, to build a sustainable relationship, speaking up and being honest will help to build trust.
- Show Appreciation – This can be something as simple as saying “thank you,” writing a letter, or inviting them to a meal. By showing your appreciation, you let them know you are investing in the relationship.
When it comes to relationships, it’s important to think about the long term. These are the professional relationships that could lead to new work, long-standing client projects, and even a more fulfilling career.
Building sustainable relationships starts from fundamental truths, like communication and compromise. These qualities may seem small, but they make a big difference in the long run.
If you’re interested in learning more about building sustainable relationships, reach out to us!