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Building Exceptional Relationships with Family, Friends and Colleagues

By David Bradford and Carole Robin
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Connect by David Bradford and Carole Robin

Connect (2021) lays the groundwork for exceptional relationships. Drawing on social science research and the authors’ personal experience, it shares core behaviors and actionable advice to cultivate meaningful connections – leading to personal fulfillment and professional success.

Key idea 1 of 8

Exceptional relationships require a growth mindset – and hard work.

Think about the relationships in your life – your bonds with friends and colleagues, family members, and romantic partners. Maybe you’re not sure if they’re “exceptional” material, but you’d like them to go from casual to personal, from competitive to collaborative, or simply from dysfunctional to functional.


The authors have spent their careers teaching thousands of students and clients how to build and maintain robust relationships in a variety of settings. The role of interpersonal know-how can range from increasing well-being in your personal life to being fundamental to professional success.

You won’t, don’t need to, and can’t develop an exceptional relationship with everybody; these deepest, most authentic connections demand time and effort. That’s not to discount less-intense relationships, which provide other things we need and crave – things like intellectual stimulation, social interaction, and fun. But, as the authors point out, not every dessert can be a chocolate soufflé.

The key message here is: Exceptional relationships require a growth mindset – and hard work.

The following blinks highlight the six hallmarks of exceptional relationships, as well as the competencies and behaviors required to achieve them. Keep in mind that exceptional relationships aren’t an end state. Just like living, breathing organisms, they constantly change and develop – and, as such, they need a lot of TLC.


The key in building and keeping up your relationships lies in learning how to learn – or adopting a growth mindset. This involves honing several behavioral characteristics. The first is letting go of the idea that you know best. Second, be willing to try new things and risk making mistakes. Third, embrace mistakes as learning opportunities rather than a reason to be embarrassed or give up. 


Keep in mind that your efforts might not always yield your desired goal. It takes two to tango, and if the other person isn’t ready – or doesn’t want – to meet you on your level, the relationship won’t progress. That said, your efforts are bound to fail if you don’t put in the work. You need to take an active stance and put what you learn into practice; doing will help you personalize the lessons and reap their full benefit.


So before we begin, choose four to five relationships that you’d like to deepen. As we go along, ask yourself how the content of each blink relates to those relationships. Keep a journal to document your thoughts and process – experiences pay off the most when you reflect on and try to understand them. 


Good luck!




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