Lately I've come across a refrain of advice that gets truer the longer I'm in the business: the strength of your relationships is essential to getting ahead, which means having a network of people who like you and/or trust you.
A few examples:
- I'm reading a yet-to-be-published business book by a woman who was the first female VP of manufacturing at Procter & Gamble. Her entire argument comes down to trust. Are you creating experiences with your colleagues that lead them to trust you, recommend you, and essentially "vote" for you to get the new project, get promoted, or get a new job?
- Here's a story of a 14-year-old who got hired at Apple. Years later, he says success is attributable to people liking him. Quote:
Recognize that by being useful and good to others, you will
eventually build a very strong team of supporters. They’ll lift you up
to new heights and protect you. If you falter they will be there to
bring you back up and support you.
I think it’s one of the most overlooked components of business. Simply, we’re always able to say that at the end of the day, all you have is your friends.
- Seth Godin speaks in this 1-minute video about social networking done right—how it can be relevant and helpful, or entirely pointless, depending on how you're using it. Are you helping people achieve their goals, reliably and repeatedly? Collecting masses of followers will not help you succeed.
For writers, this is why I advise going to conferences and meeting with people in the industry. Even if you have only a moment to make an impression, if that person likes you or is impressed by you, then it makes your job easier when it comes time to query or submit.
Part of the problem with the cold query or cold contact is that no relationship has been established, and the person on the receiving end doesn't know if you're nice or crazy. That's why referrals are so valuable to writers—because they help agents/editors feel confident and compelled to pay attention if the recommendation comes from someone they trust.
On side note, but related: In my final month of high school, there was a highly unfortunate incident where I unwittingly distributed to the entire school, via e-mail, another student's private and unflattering opinion of an administrator. As a student with a trouble-free record, it was mortifying—and even more mortifying when I got raked over the coals for it. I had to call my mother in front of the head administrator and describe the entire embarrassing incident, then was grounded to my room for a week, except for class time and meals. (It was a residential high school.)
I'll never forget that administrator staring at me squarely and declaring, "I would not say to THIS WALL what I would not say to THE WORLD."
Point being: Your interactions with people—and what you say and do—matter tremendously. When you complain, cast aspersions, or talk negatively about any situation or person, no matter what the setting/environment, always consider the repercussions. Sometimes, even when we think we are confiding privately, it is much more public than we realize. And it can lead to people being wary of us and less trusting.
Think about the kind of person you trust, like, and recommend—they probably make you feel good afterward, not drained. It's like Aunt Josephine said in Anne of Green Gables: "I like people who make me like them. Saves me so much trouble forcing myself to like them."