Rule #1 in Business: It’s Not About You

Every day, I get at least three requests from people who want to write guest posts on my personal blog.  I have given up responding to these people.

Why?  Because looking at my blog for 30 seconds will tell you that I don’t do guest posts. I have never done guest posts.  I may include tips from other experts, but the writing is always my own.

Yet people continue to ask me, because THEY want to do a guest post.  They are making this initial interaction all about them.  It doesn’t matter what I want or need.

This is not a good strategy for building relationships with people, especially managers and co-workers who have no vested interest in doing what you say.

What’s in it for them?

You might have heard the story of the salesman who greets a prospect by announcing, “I want to tell you about a great new product that has a thousand new features, all for the low price of…” The prospect stops listening as soon as she hears the words I want and slams the door in the salesman’s face.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to enter a negotiation or interaction with someone by expressly stating what you want. As I said in this post back in 2010, no one cares – they want to know what’s in it for them.

What were they going to do anyway?

Every time you seek collaboration with someone at work, or need that person to do something for you, start off by imagining their priorities for that day and for their job in general.  How can your request align perfectly with what that person needs to do anyway?

Using the example of my blog, an e-mailer would get a much better response if they mentioned a piece I’d posted recently, and suggested some follow up tips based on what commenters were asking about.  This would help me accomplish my goal of providing my readers with useful content in my typical format – and it would also help them get the publicity they were seeking.

Some of us are more self-absorbed than others.  I’m not saying that to be insulting, it’s just a fact.  It’s generally a good idea to proactively consider if you could be more giving in your communications with others.  It also can’t hurt to look for ways to help people out even when you don’t benefit directly, and to inquire about the things that matter to your co-workers (their children, hobbies, etc.) but are irrelevant to you.  Even if you are not naturally good at this, you really can get better.  And I think you’ll find that all of your relationships improve, not just work-related ones.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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