Updated on 09.05.14

Rule #12: Build Real Friendships and Relationships.

Trent Hamm

14 money rulesA reader asked me if I could break down my ideas into a handful of principles. After some careful thought, I came up with a list of fourteen basic “rules” that summarize my money and life philosophy. I’ll be presenting these as a weekly series.

Many people argue that the fundamental unit of value in the modern world is the dollar. I disagree – I think the fundamental unit of value in the modern world is the relationship, and income derives from those relationships.

Think about it for a moment. What happens if your relationship with your boss and your coworkers sours? You lose your job – your income goes down. What happens if you build stronger relationships with your boss and your coworkers? Your income goes up – you get raises and promotions and bigger projects.

You can easily carry this over into your personal life, too. Let’s say you’re about to move. If you have a lot of real friends, a few phone calls will get you all the help you need. If you don’t have these relationships, you’ll be shelling out cash for a moving service (a big cost) or doing it yourself (a huge time sink).

This phenomenon pops up in pretty much every aspect of our lives. Food? If you have lots of relationships, you get a lot of dinner invites. Household supplies? If you have a lot of friends, at least one will have a warehouse club membership and will likely split some bulk purchases with you. A leaky roof? If you have a good friend that’s a carpenter and several other friends willing to hammer nails, you can likely get that roof fixed on the cheap. Entertainment? Swap piles of DVDs with your friends.

The list goes on and on.

From this, it’s easy to see that building up a lot of real relationships with people is valuable. What do I mean by a real relationship? I’m referring to one where something of positive value is exchanged on a regular basis – useful advice, a helping hand, loaning of items, an ear to truly listen, and so on. Any relationship worth its salt has a healthy dose of positive exchanges of value with a minimum of negative exchanges (insults, backstabbing, gossip, incorrect advice, being an obstacle).

I confess that for a long time, I didn’t know how to do this well at all. It wasn’t that I thought other people should give me value in exchange for nothing – I just simply didn’t understand the value of such exchanges. I was naturally quiet and it felt to me as though the effort expended in making myself reach out was much more than any value there was in what I might have to offer. In other words, introversion and a lack of self-confidence left me in a state where I didn’t build many relationships.

So how do you build a lot of value-based relationships? Most of the ideas I found on this topic came from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (see my notes on it) and Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz’s Never Eat Alone (see my notes on it). The former helped me with the mechanics of actually communicating with people and helped me to build the courage to talk. The latter helped me figure out how to use those mechanics to build lots of value-based relationships.

Tips to Building Real and Honest Relationships

1. Open up a little.

If you’re an introvert and prefer to be quiet, the best thing you can do for your life is to work on overcoming that nature. Talk to people. If you find this hard, bone up on techniques for basic conversation. Work on tactics that make you appear more confident, even if you aren’t.

2. Surround yourself with people.

Go to where people are and open up. Attend conferences and conventions and meetings. If you hear someone talk who seems interesting, follow up directly with that person. Volunteer to present – it’ll give lots of others a chance to hear you.

3. Host parties.

Start having dinner parties and backyard barbecues on a regular basis. Don’t just invite the same old people, either – rotate the people you invite. Try to mix it up, too – don’t just invite the same circles. Mix the circles. This gives you the powerful opportunity to introduce people who may not know each other but may actually have a lot in common. If you don’t know where to start, start with your neighbors and your current friends.

4. Keep in touch.

Make a regular habit of keeping in direct contact with people. My technique is simple: I keep a big list of people I want to maintain relationships with and I strive to contact people on that list on a regular basis. I let them know what I’m up to directly and ask what they’re doing.

5. Give of yourself freely.

If someone needs help, help. Don’t worry about “payback.” Don’t worry about what you might get out of it. Just help them. If you contact someone and find out they’re stuck on a project, need a job, or need a helping hand in some other way, either provide that help yourself (if you can) or find someone who can provide that help and make the connection.

6. Ask for advice – and share what you get.

One thing I’ve found very useful is to treat my circle of friends like something of a help group. When I’m stuck on a big purchase or something like that, I ask a large group of friends for help and suggestions. I then compile all of that, figure out what’s best for me, then take the best of the information and send it back to all of my friends, letting them know what I found out. This is almost universally valuable – people love participating to help a friend, they love getting that info back, and when I mention them, they sometimes make new connections themselves.

7. Show appreciation for help that you get.

At some point, you’ll need some direct help from the people you’ve built relationships with (you’d be surprised how often they provide indirect help). When you do ask for that help, be thankful. Thank them for showing up, thank them for whatever help they provide, and do what you can to make their contribution easier – plenty of beverages, food, or anything else you can provide.

Doing these things over and over again will cause you to build a lot of stable, value-based relationships over time. Time and time again, those relationships will come through for you when you need them in your career and in your personal life.

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  1. Great tips. Family and friends can be so helpful especially when weighed down with problems.

    “The rule of friendship means there should be mutual sympathy between them, each supplying what the other lacks and trying to benefit the other, always using friendly and sincere words.” – Buddha

  2. I found this very helpful along with the related posts. I’m the classic introvert. Married with children, I can’t remember the last time we did anything socially with friends. It’s sad really because logically I know these things, but I still can’t crack my shell.

    Maybe I’m one of those that really doesn’t need day to day social contact? Perhaps the corporate cubicle environment provides enough of that. I honestly don’t know, but I am starting to come to terms with it.


  3. Jen says:

    I hate that introversion is seen as a flaw that must be overcome.

    (Which is not to say that I disagree with your assessment of it. It can definitely be a hurdle in an extrovert-heavy world. I’m just sayin’.)

  4. My wife and I both work from home so we are naturally insulated. It is so easy to get into my cave and not reach out to others. I started getting out at least once a week with a few guys and it has helped me build some great friendships.

  5. The most powerful idea for me is to share myself a little. Open up. Talk about what is really inside.

    Usually, when I demonstrate this honesty and vulnerability, it opens the door for a true friendship to develop.

    Certainly, without doing this, I can’t create a real meaningful relationship.

  6. Stephan F- says:

    The difference between an extrovert and an introvert is that an extrovert needs to be around people to recharge. An introvert needs quiet to recharge.

    That is only different ways to do the same thing. Celebrate the difference.

  7. Stephan F- says:

    The difference between an extrovert and an introvert is that an extrovert needs to be around people to recharge. An introvert needs quiet to recharge.

    That is only different ways to do the same thing. Celebrate the difference.

  8. Bill says:

    Wow, this is very different than how my friends operate. We have all agreed to never call for “Moving help” or “Roof repair”. We don’t ask or give anything besides companionship and friendship. I don’t evaluate new friends based on what I can get from them.

  9. SP says:

    Have you ever read this article, “Caring for Your Introvert” Jonathan Rauch (please google, links require moderation and I’m an impatient person :))

    Introvert is not always the same as shy or unconfident. Some introverts even have good social skills! Introverts (usually) do have friends, marriages and often are great in the work place.

    Just sayin’. I do not plan to “overcome” my natural tendency to seek out time for myself and to think before speaking (though I probably don’t need to OVER think before speaking).

    Sorry for nitpicking, the rest of the article seems good, that sentence just bugged me. But a world full of all extroverts sounds miserable to me.

  10. Being there for a friend who’s having problems is probably the biggest single thing you can do to strengthen a friendship.

    Our society is so fast paced, so POSITIVE and optimistic, that we often fail to slow down to help someone or just to listen, maybe feeling like they might drag us down.

    I’ve found time and again, that if I’m there for a friend in need, I’ll have plenty of company in my down moments. That’s when you find out who your friends really are!

  11. Jen says:

    @SP: lol, thanks for the article! The line about actors rang true (I am one), and being asked what’s wrong is one of my pet peeves. :-)

  12. spaces says:

    I’m an introvert, but my goodness it makes me happy when my extrovert friends ask me to pitch in. I’d feel left out if they didn’t.

  13. Thanks, Trent, for another great article! Always true what you say about relationships being the main thing in life, That’s were the expression “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” comes from!

    John DeFlumeri Jr (decisionsaboutmoney.blogspot.com)

  14. Kathy says:

    @SP, thanks for the link. I am definitely an introvert. I can be more open and participate more at work if given the opportunity, but I also have an extrovert supervisor who has to come in and take over everything. Needless to say, I feel very stymied in my current position. She thinks I need to take a speech class and that will fix everything. While that will help, because I am also very uncomfortable with public speaking, that won’t solve what she views as a “problem”.

  15. mare says:


  16. St. Paulite says:

    Right there with you, #3 Jen and #9 SP. Recommended reading – “The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World” (M. Laney)

  17. I can understand where it is you are going with your argument, but I can’t agree that a relationship is “the” fundamental unit of value in this modern world.

    Let’s take your food example. If you build relationships with friends, then you will get a lot of dinner invites. But those invites are contingent upon your friends being able to BUY food for dinner!

    The income on your job increasing is contingent upon you building relationships with people who have the power to “increase your income”

    100 people in a homeless shelter can have a beautiful relationship with eachother… but they are still homeless.

    So relationships themselves are not the fundamental unit. Because getting any monetary benefit from a relationship doesn’t come from the relationship, but it comes from WHO YOUR RELATIONSHIP IS WITH.

    That is the secret that the Gold Diggers have been hiding from us for so long. :)

    I also agree with 3,6 and 9.

  18. Beth says:

    Meh, you’re forcing assertive values on inwardly oriented people. Not everyone gets validation and charges from being around people all the time. We grant you outgoing people your different characteristics, so please grant us the same. We don’t have to all be the same. Don’t assume YOUR outgoing nature is the default goal for all. It’s ok to be different and we all bring different abilites to the table. Inwardly oriented people have certain skills too. WE don’t want to be like you, we want to to stop thinking we’re inferior because we’re not like you.

  19. Mel says:

    @Beth: I don’t think anyone’s forcing anyone to do anything. The basic idea is ‘the bigger your network, the more you’ll benefit from it’. Introverts (like myself) have a hard time building that network, I’ve known several excessive extroverts who had a hard time keeping a stable network. Both types could focus on ways to make it easier, but if they don’t, that’s their choice. Me? I thoroughly value the friends I have now, but would like to have more – as long as the quality is no less.

  20. Kim_Mango says:

    #6 “Celebrate the Difference.” I really liked this comment. As an introvert, I need downtime to recharge but being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m anti-social. It simply means I need time by myself to decompress.

    On the same note, I have to accept the fact that some friends and family members thrive on being around other people all the time.

    Striking a balance between the two personality types is what makes life fun!

  21. maria loscerbo says:

    This summary is a helpful and poignant reminder to me of what I’m doing well, need to do more of, need to stop doing. Thank you! I can’t wait to read the book.

  22. Bruno says:

    I enjoy your blog, it is interesting, but it seems you still have some learning to do before you presume to dole out advice to others like a wise old sage.

    Your description of friendship is highly transactional. Quid pro Quo is not a good reason to be a friend to someone. While it is true benefits do come from having friends, that should not be one’s goal if you are to have true friends. The pleasure of their company is the reward, not their tools, their club membership, their parties, or whatever. You should not be doing favors or throwing parties hoping for rewards to flow back to you. This is not true friendship. When hard times come, being there fore someone and being loyal to them should be its own reward.

    Unfortunately while you have grown a lot you are still far too much in the mainstream in this regard. But don’t feel bad. You’re like probably 95% of Americans.

  23. B Zoe says:

    Remember the rule of Magnetism: Opposites attract & like charges repel? It seems that isn’t always the case in marriage & even other relationships, but often there is a synergy that keeps folks in a state of homeostasis. Although my mate is an out-the-whazzo extrovert, there’s a proclivity to nap with the dog in the man-cave (i.e. basement). My introverted nature makes me rarely get bored, or have a strong desire to go out with people I don’t know well & trust. My mate, on the other hand, seems to thrive on swimming with lots & lots of sharks. I tend to listen to my comfort level implicitly when it comes to socializing. I have core friends with whom I keep deeper relational understanding on more personal levels. I prize my anonymity, while my mate loves celebrity & publicity – regardless of the unintended consequences that have provoked severe anxiety for us both. It is a very interesting & challenging balance we strike, but I’ve come to understand we both have learned the art of compromise that works for us and both benefit & learn new ways from the challenges it presents.

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