How to lose friends and alienate people

Posted January 4, 2010 in Communication, Latest News & Insights, Networking

A key skill for any leader is the ability to build rapport with colleagues, clients and stakeholders.  So, in an effort to help you get ahead in 2010, here’s a relationship building strategy I suggest you NOT use.  It’s a strategy that can be best described as the opposite of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

Here’s the story:  I have a colleague that runs in my circle that is a phenomenal relationship builder.  They seem to know everyone and everyone knows them.

You probably have a guy or gal like this in your circle.  They are warm, affable and have a way of making you feel very comfortable with their free and easy banter.

But here’s something I noticed recently about this colleague of mine.  They seem to focus on building rapport through sharing inside, and some would say “snide”, information about mutual acquaintances.  Interestingly, the comments don’t come across as all that nasty because they’re said in a conspiriatorial tone that is designed to make you feel like you’re the only person they’re saying this to.

The thing is, they have little digs about nearly everyone.  After a recent encounter, I was left wondering… what do you say about me?  (It would be naive to believe that the person is only trash talking other people.)

The strange thing is, I truly don’t believe my colleague is malicious in their intent when they make these little remarks about people we know.  It may seem a bizarre strategy, but I think they are actually using this approach as a way to make connections.

But here’s the thing that my colleague has forgotten: rapport building is essentially an exercise in establishing trust. 

Their method actually makes me trust them less and makes me want to tell them as little as possible and have as minimal interaction as possible.  So, if you’re consciously (or unconsciously) using gossip as a key tool in your rapport building kit bag, it’s time to rethink that strategy.  In my observation, my colleague is known in our circle as a likeable person, who’s well connected, but they’re not respected.  And, as we’ve discussed in prior posts, as leaders being respected trumps being liked any day of the week.

And afterall, as mother said: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Happy leading!


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