Want A Successful Relationship? Answer These 3 Questions First

Here's how these business questions can help your relationship.

serious couple at restaurant Sjale / Shutterstock

By Tor Constantino

Nearly 15 years ago the company I worked for brought in motivational speaker and former college football coach Lou Holtz to deliver the keynote at our national sales meeting. Prior to his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, Holtz had amassed a winning record of 249-132-7 with five different college programs.

During his keynote speech, Holtz discussed three questions that contributed to his success as a coach relating to his players, and he told us that those same questions need to be answered to build successful sales relationships with customers.


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After that sales meeting, I had forgotten completely about that speech, until this past weekend when my wife and I were going through some old boxes in the basement recently, and I found my notes from that session. Those notes sparked a useful conversation that I wish she and I would have had years ago.

What I didn’t realize when I first heard Holtz’s message was that those same questions he shared all those years ago are still relevant today and regardless of the nature of your relationship — whether professional or personal — the same questions apply.


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If you want a successful relationship, ask these three questions first:

1. Can I trust you? 

One of the best analogies I've heard regarding trust is that it works like a bank account. Each time you do something to build trust, you're making a positive deposit into a relational account you both share. Each time you do something negative, you make a withdrawal from those deposits. If you do enough negative things over time toward that individual, the relationship will be bankrupt.

Each of us has to keep making positive "trust" deposits if we want our relationships to be healthy and grow.


2. Are you committed to me? 

What the other person in the relationship wants to know with this question is whether or not you're willing to give of yourself beyond what is required, and if you will keep your word and promises you've made to them. Those little things matter.

Holtz made that point when he stressed that what you do in practice, you will end up doing in the game — and it's always game time when you're in a relationship. That's because a committed relationship is a series of much smaller commitments and promises made over time. Will you follow through on those commitments when it's inconvenient, difficult, or costly to you personally — that's what needs to be answered.

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3. Do you care about me? 

Mutual caring creates connection. Whenever you can help another person understand that you genuinely care about them, you open the door to connection, communication, and interaction. When you show you care, you nurture that relationship.


The key to caring for others is putting their needs first. The trick is changing our behavior so that we get in the habit of focusing on others instead of ourselves. Within the context of a relationship, we can practice caring by setting our personal needs aside and intentionally helping the other person in small ways.

Caring requires our words and actions to be aligned and focused on the other individual in the relationship.

Getting the answers

Whether we know it or not, every one of us needs these questions answered in every one of our relationships. It doesn't matter if it's coworkers, spouses, family members, friends, or customers — we need answers to these questions for the relationship to survive and thrive.

If you don't know how to get these questions answered for yourself, you can start by answering these questions for other people that matter to you and with whom you're in a meaningful relationship. Make sure that those people who count in your life fully understand that you can trusted; that you're completely committed to them and the success of the relationship; and that you deeply care about them and their well-being.


If you go first and answer their questions, it's very likely that you'll get the answers you need. If the other individual can't answer those three simple questions—that might be the most telling answer you could ask for. 

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Tor Constantino is a former journalist, speaker, best-selling author, and current corporate communications executive with an MBA degree. His writing has appeared in Good Men Project, Entrepreneur.com, Forbes, Fortune, BusinessInsider, Success.com, TIME, USAToday, Yahoo!, and more.