In answer to how elections are won in the USA, Bill Clinton famously answered: ‘It’s the economy, stupid’. Actually the secret to winning in politics, business and life in general is through building strong relationships.


I had a television show where I interviewed Dr John Maxwell a leadership consultant to George Bush. Maxwell has written a best-selling book called the 21 Irrefutable laws of leadership. That’s a lot of laws to get through so I asked Maxwell which was the most important. He said with out a doubt, the law of connection. Great leaders build relational bridges to others.


You only have to look at American Presidential elections to see that the leader who is best at the law of connection will almost always win the election. Remember Bill Clinton was up against a man called ‘Blob Dull’. Well that’s what the Americans used to call him – Bob Dole was his name but Bob Dole connected about as much as a dead fish. Now Clinton was the master connector – Clinton connected a little too much. Look at George Bush and Kerry, Kerry was widely considered to be the more intelligent, talented and articulate of the two (that wasn’t difficult) but Bush was a better connector – Bush won.


When ever I ask audiences who in South Africa is the master connecter they always answer: ‘Nelson Mandela’. Even watching him on TV you can feel his warmth. In person he makes you feel like the centre of his world.


Many studies report that as much as 90% of career or business success depends on our social skills. When it comes to success in romance, marriage or parenting that of course climbs to close on a 100%. We live in a celebrity-obsessed world that adulates the individual, yet the self made-man is a myth. We are all people-made-people. The royal road to our greatest dreams is lined by people, how we deal with those people will determine whether we get to our destination or not. You’ve heard the old saying: ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ The way it should really go is: ‘It’s not who you know, it’s how you treat who you know.’


We didn’t come out the womb with our social skills they had to develop. Some of what we learnt has stood us in good stead but by changing some of it we may greatly increase our influence in the world. Here are ten people powers designed to help you build better relationships.



1. Choose your response.


If we are to take on any new behavior we will have to make a conscious choice. Eventually the new behavior will become a habit and we will do it naturally but initially we will have to stop our habitual reaction and choose to respond in a better way.


2. Make them the center of your world.


Making someone else the center of the world requires us to override our own natural self-centeredness and shift to a them-centeredness. We do when we give them our full attention, use their name frequently and take a real interest in them.


3. Express Appreciation


The number one reason people give for leaving their jobs is ‘lack of recognition’. The number one reason wives divorce their husbands is ‘lack of appreciation’. Our greatest psychological need is the need for social validation. Be liberal with sincere compliments.


4. Power Listening


One of the most powerful ways to tell someone how much you appreciate them is not to tell them but instead to listen, really listen. That may be a bigger compliment than anything you say.


5. Know what you want



The best way to get what you want out of a relationship is to help others get what they want. But you also need to know what you want and communicate it clearly. The art of communication is not how well you say something it’s how well you are understood.


6. Be polite, patient and persistent

When people don’t do what we want we become frustrated and impolite but by doing so we mess with their self-esteem, making it even less likely that they will do what we want. You can say anything in a way that is polite. They may not always do it immediately that’s why we need to be patient and persistent.


7.      Respect their free will


When you make a demand you ride over people’s free-will. Always try to frame a request as a choice, even a tight one, for example: ‘Would you prefer doing it now or later today’. That gives people a sense of control.


8.      Express positive expectations


Treat people as they can be and that’s what they become capable of being. Remind the people that you work with that you know they are honest, hard working and committed. They may not always live up to your expectations but they are far more likely too than when you don’t make your expectations clear.


9. Focus on making it right rather than being right


Ever got into an argument and in the middle wondered what you were arguing about? That’s because most conflicts have less to do with a substantive issue and more to do with two vulnerable self-esteems trying to build themselves up by breaking the other down. Focus on your objective: what would make the situation right, usually it begins with an apology.


10. Do what you say


Rather under-promise and over-deliver. When you don’t follow through on a promise you’re really saying: ‘You aren’t important.’


Take something as simple as returning a phone call. I am amazed at how often people simply don’t give one anther that courtesy. Being ignored can be more insulting than being slandered. At least when you are slandered you can defend yourself, when you are ignored you are not even accorded that dignity. If you’re ignoring them, its probably because they’re not important to you, on some level you’ve decided you can get nothing from them. In that case consider my definition of class. Class is not style, pedigree or money, class is how you treat someone who is no use to you. That’s what shows humanity, compassion and conscience. Besides, as the old saying goes: Careful how you treat people on the way up, you might meet them on the way down. And if you find yourself on the way down and you’re wondering why, it’s the relationship, stupid!


Justin Cohen is an international speaker. He is the author of Life Coach, a series of seven audio books on different areas of personal development, available at bookstores country wide. This article is based on life Coach 7: How to get people to want to do what you want done (in love and in business). For more information go to