Effective communication is one of the keys to success, especially for a business looking to enhance its brand image in a society that values information. Relationship experts maintain that only through communication do relationships last. A business looking to stay competitive will maintain beneficial relationships with its potential and prospective clients, and partners. As one looking to establish a strong and approachable personal brand, building and maintaining relationships should be your bread and butter.

As much as information abounds regarding effective communication, and people continually emphasizing on its effectiveness, we don’t always get it right. No one does. But by learning the right skills, you can come pretty close to being perfect. For that, we’ll borrow from the Rotary’s 4-Way Test. As a Rotarian, I’ve had the great privilege of seeing this test in action in countless relationships.  In the 4-Way Test, Rotarians take into consideration…

“Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Does it build GOOD WILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Consider the 4-Way Test as a set of skills you can learn and practice for the rest of your life [tweet this], and that will help you relate with people in ways you never thought of before.

Let’s start with the first step:

Is it the TRUTH?

During communication, we tend to lie for a host of reasons, but mainly (i) because we don’t want to hurt the person we are talking to by telling the truth, (ii) because the lie serves to put us in a better position than what is actually reality, or (iii) we are afraid of the consequences if we tell the truth.

If you’re worried about hurting other people with the truth, practice starting conversations in a safe zone. There are simple ways to start a conversation safely: by asking how a person is faring (How are you today?), making an observation on a situation and building on that (The meeting seems to have taken ages), asking the other person to describe what they see (Did you see what he was carrying?), and describing your own experiences (I’ve never eaten this sandwich before …).

Starting conversations in a safe place tends to put the other person in a less defensive state, even when you don’t agree on a situation.

People tend to use reason (ii) to elevate their image to others, but only for so long. Lies don’t hold on forever, and at some point people get caught in the lies they’ve built for themselves. A personal brand built on a lie will never truly live up to its potential. Besides, you would rather start off your conversations on the truth and have people accept you for who you are, rather than an embellished story, which carries great risk for your personal brand.

Is it FAIR to all concerned?

Most of the time, people don’t wake up in the morning with outright intentions of hurting others.  Slow down and see things from other people’s perspectives. Perhaps that colleague you have labelled a control freak in your eyes would probably think of themselves as detail oriented. See the difference in perspectives? When you start viewing situations from other people’s perspective, you use their language, increasing your ability to authentically engage with them.


To establish a strong personal brand, it’s important to be relatable enough with people and build strong, lasting relationships.

You know what works? Pulling people aside and constantly encouraging them, telling them that you see potential in them (as long as you genuinely feel that way), and expressing thanks and gratitude to others. It is only by seeing the good in people that you will start building goodwill that will influence them to see the good within themselves.

Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

You are going to bump heads with others at work, in school, and life in general. How you handle those situations says a lot about who you are.

Finding even ground where you can both tackle the situation is also a great practice that is beneficial. You make it easier for the other person to open up, and end up having a dialogue on ways you two can help each other.

Effective communication take practice and genuine desire. The Rotary’s 4-Way Test is a great way to test the quality of your conversations, and by following the lessons each test provides, you are in a better position to be authentic.