The 13 Key Traits of Strong Professional Relationships

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Article by YEC

Strong relationships are essential to business and career success. It is important to actively nurture relationships with your boss, colleagues, mentors, clients, customers, and others in your professional network, as they can see you through all manner of obstacles and all stages of success.

However, relationship-building can be a challenge in the social media era. Our digital connections often feel superficial. To overcome this, we should aim to establish and cultivate deep and truly meaningful relationships with the people in our lives.

For advice on this subject, we asked a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council members, “What is one essential trait of a strong and meaningful professional relationship?”

Here is what they had to say:

1. Empathy

Understanding where the other person in the relationship is coming from and what they are feeling is important to any strong relationship. You can’t fix everyone’s problems or try to change them, so instead, it’s important to just listen and be there for them. – Chris ChristoffMonsterInsights 

2. Vulnerability

The most essential trait of a strong and meaningful relationship is vulnerability. Relationships based on vulnerability are positive, judgment-free, and improvement-oriented. Trust, communication, love, and other important relationship characteristics come from vulnerability. – Vladimir GendelmanCompany Folders 

3. Respect

If you do not respect your friends or your clients, you most likely won’t give those people your all when it counts. You only get what you give, and in order to receive respect, you need to first show it to others. – Kristopher Brian Jones, 

4. Real Face Time

Online communication tools like FaceTime and Skype enable us to see and talk to anyone, no matter where they are in the world. However, the relationships I find to be strongest are ones where we see each other in person. It takes more work to meet in the offline world, which signals to the other person that they are truly important to you. – Nanxi Liu, Enplug 

5. A Giving-First Mentality

One of the tenets of strong business relationships is that you should provide something of value before asking for something in return. Far too often these days, folks want others to give and give without offering anything in return. This will not build a meaningful relationship. Plus, when you’re the first to offer up something of value, you’re much more likely to have your request fulfilled. – Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance 

6. Unique Perspective

The strongest and most meaningful relationships I have in my life offer unique perspectives. Thanks to our long histories together, these individuals know the context for my actions and motivations. They can help me understand how I’ve changed, how I haven’t changed, and what is really important in my life. I don’t know where I’d be without these extremely valuable points of view. – Bryce Welker, CPA Exam Guy 

7. Intent

We’ve all met that person who is eager to misunderstand you no matter how much you explain yourself. We’ve also met the other person, the person who will understand you without you having to say a word; this is because they know your intent is good. Strong and meaningful relationships start with good intent. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner 

8. Hard Work

Strong relationships don’t maintain themselves. They require commitments by both people to making the effort and taking time to engage with one another. This is as true of business relationships as it is of personal relationships. Lasting business relationships are built through active engagement and a commitment to going the extra mile. – Vik Patel, Future Hosting 

9. Honesty

Honesty is the cornerstone of a meaningful relationship. Never be afraid to tell your team or coworkers your honest opinion. Too often, businesses slip into cultures of gossip and phony smiles. Clear communication built on a foundation of honesty is essential. – Ryan Bradley, Koester & Bradley 

10. Challenge

In business especially, you need to have relationships with people who are challenging. I don’t mean people who push back on everything you say, but people who challenge you to think differently and try new things. This can inspire healthy competition, keep you on your toes, and motivate you to always strive to be better. – Blair Williams, MemberPress 

11. Value

When developing relationships in business, you must lead with value. “How can I add value to you and your business?”: When you ask this question and commit to it before asking for anything for yourself, you demonstrate that you are more concerned with building a strong relationship than getting something out of it for yourself. Leading with this mentality can take you far. – Connor Gillivan, FreeeUp 

12. Conscientiousness

It is important to be conscientious and know what page the relationship is on. In our relationships, we all have a “bank account” between each other, and we deposit and withdraw credits from those accounts. How present are you when it comes to the other person’s feelings? What are you depositing into their account, and what are you withdrawing? Be aware of any tension between yourselves, and have honest and open communications about it when it arises. – Cody McLain, SupportNinja 

13. Friendship

All relationships require vulnerability, attention, and care, but a genuinely meaningful one is built on a solid foundation of friendship. Beginning your relationship with a client, a peer, or someone in your personal life with these building blocks will set you up for a trusting and long-term connection. – Stanley Meytin, True Film Production 

A version of this article originally appeared on

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at 

By SUCCESS Magazine