“The fate of America will be importantly determined by how we treat each other in the smallest acts of daily life.” David Brooks, The New York Times
A couple of years ago, I met a friend in Washington who is a partner at one of the big D.C. law firms. He described the challenge he faced coaching young lawyers on attracting new clients. They don’t teach that in law school, he said.
What does it take to cultivate new client relationships? It’s a question we all grapple with in the professional services sector. And it’s a skill that I have spent 30+ years trying to improve.
David Brooks of The New York Times has written two columns in the past month that suggest the answer to this query may be closer than we think. In his August 25, 2022 column, Why Your Social Life Is Not What it Should Be, he suggests that “the fate of America will be importantly determined by how we treat each other in the smallest acts of daily life.” That means being “a genius at the close at hand: greeting a stranger, detecting the anxiety in [their] voice and asking what’s wrong, knowing how to talk across difference.” He points to rich reward that can be achieved by learning the basic skills of engaging strangers in meaningful dialogue.
In his August 4th column, What is it About Friendships that is So Powerful, he reflects on recent Harvard research showing that friendship is one the strongest indicators of economic prosperity. He says, “entering into a friendship can be a life-altering act and entering into a friendship with someone different from yourself can be life-transforming.” Here again, friendship-building skills that some learn on the playground can be transformative in the business world.
You might argue that this is all common sense. It may well be, but it is guidance that more of us need to follow. Brooks says that too many see the world in “anxiety drenched ways that cause us to avoid situations that would be rewarding.” And the hyper-polarized, political landscape that surrounds us makes this less easy as well.
Here is the advice I offer when asked: Listen more and talk less. Ask questions that ignite interesting conversations and that give you meaningful insight about the people you meet. Cherish friendship and treat relationships like a highly valued asset.
New clients want to work with people they know and trust.
By Michael Law
Founder & CEO