What is Relationship Building?

Relationship building is a skill that many businesses today list on a job description or prioritize in their employees. But what does it mean? We build relationships when we are open with others and learn more about them. Healthy relationships make us feel heard and valued, like we belong. Strong relationships take intention and mindfulness to build and develop over time. Connections can’t just happen overnight, but they will happen regardless. Without mindful attention to the well-being of a relationship, it can grow into something that isn’t as fulfilling as it should be.

In 2018, a survey of conducted by Cigna found 46% of people feel lonely sometimes or always. The solution to those feelings is to develop relationships that make you feel connected to and valued by others. Here’s some insight about relationship building at work, with friends, and with family to help with building or improving relationships.

Relationship Building at Work

Relationship building happens when the mutual understanding between or among individuals is increased. This could happen between two people in a workplace, or for an entire team. On the job, this mutual understanding doesn’t just make the day better, it is also vital for success.

Harvard Business School Professor and performance consultant Theresa Amabile analyzed over 12,000 daily diary entries made by 239 professionals. A sense of “camaraderie…bonding and mutual trust” was found to accelerate productivity. When we feel trust and respect for those around us, everyone works a little bit harder.

Having friends at work might also keep your team together longer. Research firm Future Workplace surveyed over 2000 people across 10 countries. Almost two-thirds said they would be inclined to stay at their company longer if they had more friends.

Relationships at work need to be based in trust and mutual respect. To help develop the team’s confidence in one another’s abilities, create opportunities for team projects. Sharing feedback about one another’s successes or learning moments can also build workplace camaraderie.

Relationship Building with Friends

The main thing you need to mutually understand with friends is how to have fun and support each other. The success of friendships also relies on trust and mutual respect. As your friends show they have your back, you must return the friendship and make good on your word.

According to Psychology Today, reciprocity and mutual respect are two of the five themes of a successful friendship. Another is remembering that you must enjoy each other’s company—in fact, that’s the first one. If you don’t have fun with a friend, they aren’t really a friend.

Lastly, Psychology Today says remember that a commitment to a friendship is voluntary. It’s also okay to be less involved with a friend over time, as long as you still stay in touch. Everyone’s life has its hectic periods.

But you can’t let life’s pace totally obliterate your connections. When it comes to building friendships, it’s important to be available for friends. This is especially true when they need help or support. In addition, celebrate their important moments in a special way. Make sure to listen and ask questions when you see them—according to Trent Hamm, if you’re doing more than 60% of the talking, you might be doing it wrong.

PS: Friendship doesn’t depend on age whatsoever. 68% of people told research firm Barna they have a close friend who is either 15 years older or younger. 27% of people have both older and younger friends.

Relationship Building with Family

What elements of your family environment are you grateful for? These values are the foundation of your family relationships and can be drawn on to make relationships deeper.

Getting closer to family members is an intentional process. When everyone lives together it’s easy to rely on being down the hall to keep you in close contact. To keep a family feeling close, try out ideas like choosing a family motto, making time to volunteer together, or an annual family awards ceremony. These are just some ways you can bond as a family while not living under the same roof.

We’ve discovered that relationship building is essentially the process of living life and interacting with people. Strong personal relationships like friendships, romances, and family bonds have been shown to be good for your health, says the Mayo Clinic and others. Our connections define our world. Our relationships have the potential to make us less depressed and more excited to jump out of bed in the morning.

When it comes to your priority list, make sure all three of these groups stay on your radar. The tasks of work and the daily grind will come and go with time, but our relationships are what sustain us. Like our Alpha Kappa Psi brotherhood, a co-ed professional fraternity!

Risk Management of Friendships

Our friends mean the world to us. We spend years developing social confidence, conversational skills, and general empathy to connect with others. From the smallest interactions, like sharing a funny meme or text, to the biggest emotional experiences, like consoling one another during a loss or breakup, having good pals makes things easier. As with all relationships, though, these friendships require real effort and work. Without careful consideration of emotions and needs, it’s possible to end up being manipulated, lied to, let down, or traumatized by toxic relationships. By exercising risk management, we can set appropriate boundaries and ensure everyone involved is receiving – and giving – what is needed.


The Science of Friendship

Maintaining relationships is a huge part of our everyday life. Gallup polls show that 98 percent of Americans report having at least one close friend, with the average number being around 9 people. Certainly, those experiences can improve our mental wellness, as a study published by Madeline R. Vann for Everyday Health showed that those who socialize happily with friends see a general lift in mood. The same study also showed that individuals with strong friend circles had more self-confidence and experienced shorter bouts of grief or depression.


These friendships can also have a positive impact on our physical health. Vann’s study found evidence that those with healthy and positive friendships aged more successfully. Another study by sociologist Yang Claire Yang found those with good pals had better health according to biomarkers like blood pressure, BMI, and inflammation levels. The study also found the opposite to be true, that those with weak social ties had higher waistlines and blood pressure readings. This indicates that having poorly managed or negative friendships could impact your life in more ways than you know.


Managing Healthy Friendships

Risk management with friends means fostering good conditions. We all deserve close, meaningful friendships. These connections work best when they are enriching and mutual. There should not be trends of one person demanding more emotional labor than they would give out. In the same sense, we cannot insist a friend drop everything and pay attention because we need it. In order to eliminate the risk of a negative friendship, there are some important factors to consider.


  • Communication is Key

Being a considerate, good friend starts with strong communication. We trust our friends because they’re open and honest, and they encourage us to do the same. Having those hilarious or moving conversations that last into the night make us feel great, connected, and understood. Not all communication comes easy, and it’s OK to identify when those breakdowns occur. Behavior analyst Stephanie Michele wrote in her article “Communication Boosters: Relationship Improvement Exercises” that practicing 15-30 minutes of structured conversation can greatly improve a friendship. Such conversation topics might include your best childhood memory or your most embarrassing fear. The point here is to actively listen and practice mirroring, in which you seek to validate the speaker and demonstrate you’ve understood the right information. Overall, communication helps us to avoid risk by ensuring both parties are speaking their minds.


  • Avoid Unnecessary Judgement and Manipulation

In the same way that communication makes us feel heard, friendships make us feel safe. So often we’re plagued by self-doubt and a lack of confidence. Talking things out with friends tells us that we’re not alone, and that our feelings are normal. However, if you or a friend is being unnecessarily judgmental, this can lead to the opposite. Toxic friendships are often defined by talking behind one another’s backs or utilizing tools of manipulation.


One form of manipulation that has gained visibility is that of gaslighting. When gaslighting, one individual will use psychological tricks to make another question their own perception. Statements like “you’re crazy,” or “no one likes you,” are hurled between individuals in attempt to isolate the other. The friend may re-tell different accounts of experiences or tell you that they are the only one who cares about you. If you’re noticing experiences like this, it might be time to leave that person behind for your own well-being.


  • Establish and Respect Boundaries

We think of best friends as the people to who we can tell anything. They’re our partners in crime, our ride or dies, our best friends forever. Everyone has their own emotional needs and limits, and it’s important to respect those. As with all elements of a strong friendship, this one begins with communication. Here are some examples of healthy boundaries in a friendship.


  1. Learn to Say ‘No’

Engaging in unwanted activities is only going to cause resentment. Both parties should feel comfortable saying no if they’re not up for hanging out. In a well-defined relationship, there is no pushback or attempts to persuade anyone; feelings and needs are wholly respected.


  1. Define Appropriate Face-to-Face Time

Sometimes we all need to be alone, and our friends should accept that. If a friend tells you that they need to hang out alone, or even with someone else that evening, it shouldn’t be taken as an attack. Rather, this is just a statement of their boundaries, and it should be taken to heart. For those who have social anxiety or feel introverted, it might be helpful to establish times when you will hang out versus when they will see others.


  1. Stay Strong in Your Convictions

Most importantly, your boundaries matter. If you feel a friend is trying to convince you that your boundaries are too much, that’s a red flag. Always be confident in expressing your truths.


Friendships and social interactions are one of the most important aspects of our lives. While we can’t choose our family, you can choose your friends, and risk management plays a big role in the curation of healthy relationships. By communicating, refusing to participate in manipulative behavior, and setting boundaries, this could be the start (or continuation) of a beautiful friendship.


What is Risk Management?

There are few certainties in life. In fact, one might argue that the only certainty of life is uncertainty and the unpredictable nature of being is what defines the so-called human condition. While you can’t predict the ups and downs throughout our existence, you can still prepare for the unexpected. Managing risk can take many forms, whether it’s keeping our jobs secure, maintaining healthy friendships, or ensuring the care of our families.


Risk Management in Professional Life

Risk reduction in the business world requires the confidence to act when we know a risk exists. We want to project a sense of conviction and self-assurance to our coworkers and supervisors. Unfortunately, many of us still struggle with workplace anxiety. A recent study performed by the Boston College Working Project found that the majority of subjects interviewed felt nervous about their job security. They reported feeling “untethered,” and majorly concerned about losing their position or disrupting their career. Even if employee fears are unsubstantiated, the worry is real. A study by Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that 56 percent of people say their job is negatively impacted by stress, and the Center for Disease Control found that these feelings can lead to a 35 percent reduction in cognitive performance.


Managing these feelings of stress is all about remaining positive and pragmatic. While worrying is wasted energy, there are some actionable steps you can take to feel more confident and secure in your career. You might consider:


  • Requesting routine job performance one-on-ones to ensure you’re meeting metrics
  • Making a detailed list of workplace goals and documenting your progress
  • Watching webinars or taking classes to learn new skills as career development
  • Applying for promotions and career advancements
  • Speaking with a mental health professional or at-work human resources counselor


Regardless of what steps you take, believing in yourself and trusting your abilities is a great start. Once that workplace anxiety begins to melt away, you can address other areas of risk in your personal life.


Risk Management with Friends

One of the biggest parts of managing risk within your friend group is setting reasonable boundaries. We turn to our social circle for to have fun, receive advice in tough situations, and to generally feel validated in our emotions. In turn, friends will often reach out to you for the same. But when the balance feels off, or one of you is consuming an uneven amount of emotional energy from the other, it can start to feel unhealthy.


No one likes having a difficult conversation with a friend, but honest communication is the hallmark of any good relationship. You may, for example, feel like a friend is demanding too much of your time. While you care deeply for the individual, there is a limit to how much emotional energy or labor you can provide. In an interview with the New Yorker, anthropologist Robin Dunbar said, ““The amount of social capital you have is pretty fixed. It involves time investment. If you garner connections with more people, you end up distributing your fixed amount of social capital more thinly so the average capital per person is lower.”


The important thing to do here is to acknowledge your own feelings and share them openly and clearly with your friend. You might frame your feelings in terms of actionable steps, such as “I can’t talk while I’m at work,” or “I don’t want any unexpected visitors dropping by.” Whatever it is that is bothering you, speak to them sincerely. If they’re a friend worth keeping, they’ll be happy to meet your needs.


Risk Management with Family

Whether you have a partner and children, or just want to ensure your parents are taken care of as they age, risk management with family is about creating stability. This includes more than just emotional stability, such as tangible planning through finances and insurance coverage.


For young professionals, it may seem a little early, or even overwhelming, to start planning for your family’s future. However, preparing for the unexpected is of vital importance for your loved ones. According to Social Security Administration statistics, 3 out of 10 Americans who enter the workforce will face disability before retirement. If something like this happens, or even something more serious, you mitigate the risk for your family by practicing good financial health, such as:


  • Acquiring life insurance
  • Acquiring disability insurance
  • Contributing to a 401(k)
  • Opening trusts or IRAs


Risk management may seem like a fancy word for anxiety, but it’s more about being practical and planning ahead. By maintaining a sense of job security, defining your relationships with friends, and planning financially for your family, you can live much more freely knowing that you’re protected from the risk of the great unknown.



Research Best Practices

The information age is called that for a reason. With the invention of the internet, you have what seems like an infinite amount of information at your fingertips. This comes in handy when you do research for school, work, or in your free time. Whether it’s a school, business development, or family history, it’s important to compile facts. So, how do you know which sources to trust and which to disregard? Here are some research best practices.


What’s the Domain?

The first thing you should look at is the URL of the webpage. This can separate a trusted site from one that needs a closer look. Chances are better if the site is either government-run or linked to an educational institution. These sites will have a domain that ends with either .gov or .edu. To get these types of URLs, the institution needs to prove they are associated with an accredited school or government body according to Techwalla and Dotgov.


However, there are two things to keep in mind. Sometimes a school will give a student a .edu domain, so be sure to check the author’s credentials. Also, many people assume .org addresses are affiliated with nonprofits or charities, but unlike a .edu or .gov website, any organization can acquire a .org domain.


Look at the Author

Who wrote the piece? It says a lot that someone is willing to associate their name with information that anyone can read. While many government websites are published without an author, any news source worth its salt will attach a name to each article. Often, you can click on the name to find out more about the author, which could explain why they are an expert in the field and why they can be trusted.


How is the Site Designed?

While a poorly designed site may have good information, a poorly designed site can indicate something else. The first is that the information might be really old (especially if the site looks like this classic example from Angelfire from the days of yore) and therefore not the most accurate. The other is that whatever research is on the page might not be associated with the most professional organization. Most organizations now have the funding to build a professional-looking site. If the site looks outdated, it doesn’t always mean the information you find is bad, but you should investigate it more closely.


Check the Writing Style

Usually, if the writing style is a flatter (read boring) academic style, this could indicate a trusted source. However, if the writing features slang, personal pronouns, or anecdotal stories, you may want to stay away. Also, you should be careful of sources that don’t cite other sources or are riddled with grammar and/or spelling mistakes. These are the marks of a writer who may not be associated with a professional organization.


Use Your Best Judgment

After researching a specific subject for some time, you’ll start to understand what’s right and wrong. Therefore, any information that doesn’t line up with what you understand about your area of research might need a closer look. This isn’t to say that the information is bad, just that you need to be careful about using it until the source can be verified through a secondary source, such as a scientific journal or encyclopedia.


Getting Started

If you are just beginning the research process and don’t know where to start, try searching your topic on Wikipedia. While you should never quote from this site, you can get a solid overview of the topic. Wikipedia pages can be well-cited, so although the page itself is off-limits, there are plenty of good articles linked on the page that can useful.


Research on any topic can be a daunting prospect, whether you’re doing it for work, school,

or fun. Make sure to look at each source carefully so you know you are getting reliable information. Remember that using incorrect information from dubious sources could put your professional and academic life on the line, so stay alert.

Research for Persuasion

Persuasion is a powerful tool. When communicating with others, we have the ability to appeal to emotions and logic to convince someone of a position. Great thinkers like Aristotle dedicated their lives to defining and investigating persuasion. Today, we use the skill in pitching ideas, during job interviews, or even in our personal lives. For persuasion to be effective, we must establish credibility. The best way to accomplish that task is through research. Below are some ways you can bolster your position and enhance persuasion.


The Science of Persuasion

Psychologists have dedicated careers to the study of persuasion. Robert Cialdini is one of the most well-known experts, publishing his book “Influence: The Study of Persuasion” back in 1984. In it, he describes six principles of the process. This includes tools like authority, social proof, and consistency, suggesting that people are most persuaded when the speaker seems credible. A study published in the journal Communication Research found that statistical information is more convincing than story-based evidence. All this to say that supporting your arguments through research doesn’t dilute them – it actually makes them stronger.


Finding the Right Source for Persuasion

When diving into research for an argument, it’s important to rely on authoritative sources. Nothing is worse than making a passionate argument, only to find that there’s a factual error in your statements. Think of the fact-checking that occurs during political debates, and how quickly someone’s credibility crumbles when it’s revealed they’re spewing nonsense. When seeking out these sources, it’s vital to consider issues like bias, satire, or just general fake news. This is especially true in the age of the web, where it can be difficult to pin down the accuracy of information. In an effort to make this process easier, writer Joe Barker published a list of six criteria for evaluating sources. Though it was written more than a decade ago, the points are still just as relevant. Check to see if your resources have:


  • Authority: Who’s responsible for publishing the source? Is the information known to be reliable?
  • Accuracy: Does the writer cite their own sources? Is the work free of typographical errors?
  • Objectivity: Is the content devoid of bias? Are there statements of intent for the source?
  • Currency: Is there an indication of when the source was published or updated last?
  • Coverage: How do you evaluate the work itself? Is the piece well-written with arguments supported by fact?
  • Appearance: Does the site look well-organized? Do links and buttons work?


Though there is a lot of leg work that goes into sourcing your research, this list is a great start.


Balancing Data and Storytelling

While credible sources and diligent research benefits persuasion, it’s not the only factor. Humans respond to emotional appeals and storytelling. That’s why it’s helpful to think about how and when to use research in your arguments. It’s easy for the audience to simply tune out when all they hear is data. As Homer Simpson once said, “Oh people can come up with statistics to prove anything. Forty percent of all people know that.” The important part is to tether your research to a narrative so that individuals not only understand the information, but also why it’s so important.


In another study performed by Robert Cialdini, a hotel chain was attempting to cut down on water and energy costs. After research showed that asking guests to reuse their towels would drastically cut spending, the hotel knew this would be a great way to reach its goals. However, research also found that individuals were 26 percent more likely to reuse their towels if they were told other guests did the same. With that in mind, the company simply created a campaign advertising this practice. The result? A lower usage of water and energy across the board. By using data and a story to inform its argument, rather than simply listing stats, the company successfully persuaded the audience.


Supporting your persuasive arguments with research is always a great idea. Not only does it lend credibility, but it can expose you to other perspectives. Blending the background data with a concrete narrative creates powerful emotional response for listeners. Even in this blog, we’ve used research to persuade you to use research for persuasion! Very meta, indeed.