I've written this before, but it bears repeating: Business is built on  people. But perhaps more specifically, good business is built on good relationships.

Forbes Los Angeles Business Council member Tina Hovsepian wrote about this in some detail -- underscoring the impact of business- vendor relationships, employee-employer relationships, business-client relationships, and so on.

The key to all of these -- and really, long-lasting relationships generally -- is what I like to call positive mutuality. In the frenzy of the moment, it easy to take advantage of power dynamics or lean on ego/need to push people in the right direction, but these invariably create a rift between you and others.

So lead with what I call the 1-for-1 rule. Here's how it plays out:

  • For every compliment or positive statement made about you or your work, return the favor. Say something positive about the person who shared the compliment.
  • For every criticism you want or need to share, start first with one piece of positive feedback. This doesn't have to just be in meetings or job reviews; it can be in document edits or presentation notes. Start with the positive and pair each positive statement with a negative one.

You may ask, "But what if there truly is nothing positive to say about someone?" I approach this by broadening scope a bit. Let's say you have a new hire in the office and everyone was very excited to bring him/her on board. Turns out, though, they were terrible at their job, constantly late, and unreceptive to feedback.

So frame it as the positive that it could have been: "When you started, the whole team was so excited to bring you into the fold and see what you could do. Your resume was very impressive. Unfortunately, however, you didn't really meet expectations and we're going to have to let you go."

See how this is framed? With a positive opportunity starting the conversation, you let the other person know they have the potential to do well, but haven't performed as needed. Even if they end up leaving the position, they have a positive earworm: They know they can succeed if they want to.

This works well in personal relationships, too, and fosters a "positive first" mindset that is widely appreciated.

I encourage you to keep the 1-for-1 rule top of mind the next time you have a conversation. You'll be surprised how far it goes to building trust, connection, and furthering mutual goals.