Every entrepreneur learns quickly that creating your own path doesn't make you less reliant on others. In fact, it is the reverse: While a traditional corporate job may hand you one boss, entrepreneurship requires building and maintaining a healthy relationship with co-founders, customers, funders, mentors, and many others.

And the truth is that you won't always like the people you need. Emotional intelligence guru Brené Brown has a quick way to help you get even the most challenging relationship back on track:

The most compassionate people ... assume that other people are doing the best they can. I lived the opposite way: I assumed that people weren't doing their best, so I judged them and constantly fought being disappointed ...

The next time you get frustrated with someone, ask a simple question: Do you believe the person is doing the very best that he or she can?

What often happens is that we realize how much we are judging someone on the basis of our own skills, experience, and strengths. For instance, I have spent decades doing non-traditional work, so I have the discipline to stay focused in unusual work environments such as my home office or in an airplane while traveling. Some people fall apart under the same circumstances, either because they are new to the situation or just have a different personality. Are they doing the best they can, even if the results are poor? In most cases, yes, they are.

Try applying this simple question to the co-worker who always seems to fumble, the family member who regularly disappoints you, or the customer who seems rather dense. As Brown points out in her book Rising Strong, the result is empathy--empathy for the fact that they, too, are doing the best they can with what they've got. It opens up possibilities that you would be closed off to otherwise.

And while becoming a more empathic person is a smart relationship builder, the biggest impact may end up being on you: If you are more accepting of others, then you inevitably become more gentle with yourself.

Published on: Mar 16, 2017
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