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Build Bridges For A Better Workplace

“Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains,” says Robert Waldinger, director of the most comprehensive Harvard study in history about adults’ well-being. In this blog series, we’re exploring eight “emotionally intelligent actions” identified by EQ Applied author, Justin Bariso. All eight actions collectively point to the common denominator under great relationships: trust.

“You might imagine each of your relationships as a bridge you build between yourself and another person,” says Bariso. “Any strong bridge must be built on a solid foundation—and for relationships, that foundation is trust.”

In this last installment, we’ll look at behaviors six through eight that build trust. Up to this point, we’ve discussed the meat and potatoes of building trust, such as communication, honesty and dependability. Today’s highlights are often-missed-but-essential opportunities for creating fulfilling relationships. Join me in taking a closer look at the finer points of cultivating mutual respect in your connections:


The best way to convey this emotionally intelligent action is to show it. It’s not enough to feel appreciation for someone. They need to experience your appreciation. I’m reminded of our annual summer event when I was CEO at Prologis. The management team used to staff the barbecues and serve lunch outdoors to our employees. The staff got a kick out of preparations, especially a promotional flyer featuring our headshots with chef hats. But our light-hearted event had a genuine message: We were happy to serve our employees and show how much we appreciated them. Gestures like this one broaden and strengthen relational ties with employees.


Bariso explains empathy as striving to understand another’s perspective. If you show empathy for another, they will feel understood and often reciprocate. For example, as leaders, your words matter and how you refer to people is important. Successful venture capitalists, Clara Brenner and Julie Lein, have had the experience of frequently being referred to as girls, about which Brenner said, “It just grinds my gears.” Get to know people at a deeper level to better understand how those things shape their view of what “respect” looks and sounds like. Seeking to understand others shows not only your respect, but empathy for each other’s unique position.


Even though we know apologizing can completely alter the other person’s feelings toward you or a shared experience, harnessing a hearty dose of humility is often difficult. I’m reminded of a falling out I had with my cousin’s husband that caused us to not speak for two years. During that time, I began to think about his misgivings and rethink my position. I reached out to him and asked if we could get together. When we did, I took the chance to apologize and tell him I didn’t realize how my position made him feel and that I felt terrible about the outcome. Since then, we’ve grown very close and enjoy spending time together. It’s an incredible reminder that apologies heal wounds and make room for trust.

While Harvard’s definitive research relates to how good relationships are the key to personal happiness and health, it’s an incredible affirmation that the same holds true for us in the workplace. The question is, what will we do with this information?

By definition, bridges span an obstacle without closing our pathways—a great metaphor for the rewarding connections ahead of you. My hope is that you’ll begin to work on each of the eight tenets Bariso has described since, together, they form a foundation of trust for countless bridges to health and happiness.

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