The single most important factor in building and maintaining strong relationships is the frequency with which complements flow between the parties concerned. In fact, I have heard it said that one must complement someone five times more than he criticizes to build a strong relationship and keep it strong. Regrettably, I cannot say with scientific certainty whether the “complement ratio” is, in fact, five-to-one. Nevertheless, I believe this is an irrefutable natural law that works no matter the nature of the relationship, personal or professional. Your success in any relationship will be determined by your willingness to give complements, to help people see the good in themselves.

R&B singer Erykah Badu begins the live version of her song “Tyrone” by reminding her audience, “Remember, I am artist, so I’m sensitive about my (stuff).” We are all “artists” when it comes to our own lives. We need to hear good things said about us and we need to be the recipients of kind actions. Kind words and actions inspire, encourage and sustain us. Most of us do not enjoy the five-to-one complement to criticism ratio described above, which leaves us even thirstier for such kindness. Therefore, those with the ability and willingness to dispense kindness can be enormously popular (and powerful) people. Who is popular, important and influential in the desert than the only one with a jug of water?

The greatest of leaders, as has been demonstrated time and time again throughout history, are those who complement their followers. Sure, we all have a vision in our minds of the “tough love coach” that coaxes the best out of his or her pupils. However, let us not forget the successful “tough love” coach is equal parts “tough” and “love.” The greatest leaders in any field do not abuse, demean or condescend to their followers. They provide a vision that demonstrates intimate knowledge of the hopes and dreams of those that follow. These great leaders assume and expect that the followers have the intellect and ability to execute the plan to realize the vision, if not help develop that plan. The great leaders make the followers feel better about themselves by engaging in the leader’s effort. An effective leadership, by definition, complements his or her followers. These great leaders help their followers achieve and, in the process, enhance their own legacies.

Similarly, the most sought-after individuals are those that complement those with whom they come in contact. The person with the largest personal or professional network is the one who can make each of us feel that he or she is speaking directly to our hearts, that we are the only one that matters. We feel is if we glow by standing in their glow. Why? They make us feel better by simply being around them. They help us see the most positive parts of ourselves. And in our effort to be in their glow, we will champion their causes, support their efforts and recommend them to all we know. The end result is continued success for this magnetic individual, the object of our affection.

All this power could be yours. All it will cost is the desire to spread positivity. All it requires is the willingness to help those around you see what is already within them, their best selves. The kingdom is yours for the taking if you are willing to give the people what they need.

Author's Bio: 

Brian McClellan is the cofounder and CEO of BAMSTRONG Presentations, a career consulting firm, and the author of The Real Bling: How to Get the Only Thing You Need. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, he served as a vice president of sales with Georgia-Pacific Corporation, a Fortune 100 company at the time. A graduate of Princeton University and the Columbia Business School, Brian is a powerful motivational speaker who has mentored countless fellow professionals seeking to improve their personal and professional lives. Brian is also a former rap singer, which is evident in hip-hop sensibility with which he offers his message of self-discovery and self-determination. To learn more about Brian, please visit