Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

When you don't feel that you have to be perfect to be accepted, when you are given the freedom to be yourself in every situation, when you can share your heart without risk of betrayal, when being together is more important than what you do ... that is when you're in the presence of a friend. - Unknown

I meet a lot of people in my travels both online and offline. I'm sure you do too.

I can tell when I meet someone I can relate to; a person who seems genuine and sincere without all the hype and pretense. The kind of person who might initially be a colleague or client and has the potential to become a friend. To me that's a big bonus.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Motivational Model recognizes the value of affiliations (social needs) in the way people make connections with others. Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone stresses the value of building meaningful personal and business relationships as the cornerstone of his great success. My point?

We all want to connect with others. It would be a pretty lonely life, otherwise. Too often I see people at networking events, social gatherings, and business meetings trying so hard to sound interesting, deliver a catchy elevator speech, compete for attention to look good or sound smart (yeesh, I've done that before!) and attempt to impress others instead of being genuinely interested in getting to know the other person.

Yes, you do need to be aware of how you present yourself to others. Coming across needy, depressed, ditzy, overselling yourself, or divulging waaaaaaay too much personal information can be a big turnoff to the listener especially in a first meeting (or date!).

In my audio program, Powerfull Networking I say:

You've probably heard you have about 10 seconds or less to make a good first impression. People make assessments in three ways:

• How you look and act represents 55%. Your appearance, your posture, and your ability to make eye contact - all forms of non-verbal communication send out a distinct message to the observer..

• 38% is based on how you sound. Your voice quality and tone (resonance).

• 7% - is based on what you say. The actual words you use to express yourself.

I was at a networking event months ago to hear a specific speaker. I found myself sitting next to a gentleman in the financial services industry. We struck up a conversation for about a half hour and we talked about many different things relating to both our business and personal life. And, not once did it feel like a sales pitch. We had a great conversation that felt so comfortable and relaxed.

At the end of the evening we exchanged cards and promised to meet for coffee. I felt like I had made a friend. Since then, we’ve had several conversations that recently led to a business opportunity for me. One initial conversation can lead to all sorts of possibilities. And you know what - I have loads of cards for financial advisors. If I knew someone who needed financial help, guess who I’d send them to?

Many successful people realize the value of making connections with people to forge quality relationships that lead to friendships, strategic alliances, joint ventures, satisfied customers, new clients, referral resources and more…. In this way we create the potential for long-lasting affiliations with others.

Some people are naturally charismatic; they just have this innate ability to engage people. If that is not something that you see in yourself the good news is that these qualities are something that you can cultivate. If there are some people in your world that you feel are experts at building relationships, observe them to see how they do it. I don’t mean that your goal would be to replicate and do what they do, rather consider how you might interact with people differently in ways that feel comfortable and natural for you.

The key is being willing to trust yourself (and know who you are!) to show up with people in a way that feels human, authentic, and professional. We form personal and business relationships with folks we like, respect and trust.

I'm very blessed in my life to be surrounded by incredible people of high integrity who have become close personal and business partners. No only do they walk their talk and do what they say they'll do, they also hold me to my best. They nudge, advise, inspire, and challenge me. They objectively call me on my crap and won't let me wiggle out of things. They celebrate my successes with enthusiastic whoo-hoos, baby! Not only do I trust and admire them, I feel safe to be who I am. That's very important to me in building close relationships.

How do you want people to see you? Think about you? What kind of reputation are you building in your life?

Do this exercise: Make a list of your unique qualities, talents/gifts, and strengths. Ask your friends, colleagues, and clients for additional feedback. Find out what attracts them to want to be in a relationship with you. Use this exercise as a way to gain insight about how others perceive you. Be willing to discover things about yourself that might not make you feel or look good. In that way, you can see where you might be turning people off and focus on becoming more genuine and magnetic.

Author's Bio: 

Lorraine Cohen is CEO and founder of Powerfull Living; an organization dedicated to business development, leadership proficiency, and personal enrichment. She brings more than 25 years experience in life and business coaching, psychological and spiritual counseling, and sales experience to thousands of entrepreneurs, business owners, and professionals from a wide range of industries. A sought after speaker, Lorraine hosts her own weekly Internet radio show called Powerfull Living Radio - compelling conversations for business and personal success. To learn more about Lorraine’s services, programs and products, visit Contact her for speaking engagements and customized leadership programs for your company or organization.