Become a Relationship Category Maker!

Modern technology has undoubtedly brought convenience and connectivity to our lives, but it has also introduced a paradox. Despite the ability to instantly connect with others across the globe, many of us find ourselves feeling increasingly isolated, yearning for authentic relationships that seem to elude us.

In a time when genuine connections are more valuable than ever, one of the fundamental challenges and opportunities is figuring out how to stand out from everyone else. How can we be the person in our relationships and interactions that truly makes a lasting impact? Many of us grapple with this question as we navigate our personal and professional lives. But what if the answer lies not just in what you do but in how you do it?

I'm a big believer that if you focus intentionally on becoming a "relationship category maker," you change the rules of engagement. You become a priority to others, not just in your chosen field but in the way you build relationships.

For instance, I don't buy a sports car to carry things that would fit in an SUV or pickup truck. Similarly, what do you want to be known for? Not just for your vocation or what you do, but for the relationships you build? While I might be a go-to person for a certain competency or capability, it’s the unique way I build relationships that truly sets me apart.

This is the fundamental premise of our Relationship Signature Index (RSI)™.

The Relationship Signature Index (RSI)™

The Relationship Signature Index (RSI)™ is a tool designed to evaluate how effectively you are creating a unique category for yourself within your relationship ecosystem. It measures the depth and impact of your connections, focusing on how you stand out and make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

This idea of category creation is crucial in forming the most impactful and memorable relationships. The best relationships are those that offer us new ways of thinking, communicating, solving problems, and conducting business. They bring up needs or solve problems we didn't even realize we had, highlighting new opportunities and offering fresh perspectives that we might have overlooked. A friend of mine defines genius as something so obvious that nobody else has thought of—this is often what great relationships bring to the table.

Phenomenal relationships aren't about inventing something new to sell us. Instead, they help us think and lead differently. They model behaviors we aspire to adopt, showing us better ways to pursue our desired outcomes.

Painfully, relationship building is not typically taught in schools or professional training programs. Most of us learn about relationships through the examples set by others—our parents, friends, university classmates, and colleagues. We see a manager, a colleague, or a superior do something that aligns with our values and think, "When I get a chance, I'm going to do that." Conversely, we witness behaviors that turn us off, and we decide, "I don't want to be that; I don't want to do that."

This observational learning shapes our relational skills, but without intentional effort and reflection, we risk repeating ineffective patterns rather than cultivating truly impactful connections.

The Discipline of Relationship Building

Creating meaningful relationships requires discipline, much like any other skill. It's about creating relational categories and practicing them consistently. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. Just as a marathon requires preparation and endurance, building strong relationships involves understanding three fundamental things:

  1. What aspects of relationships drive you,

  2. What do you enjoy doing, and

  3. What you are really good at.

Some people are natural extroverts who enjoy initiating connections and being out there, while others excel at nurturing and sustaining relationships over time. It's important to recognize what you are good at and where you can add the most value. Are you someone who listens intently and helps others work through their issues, or do you prefer being the go-to asset for reliable support?

Fine-tuning your relational skills also means being intentional about your interactions. Are you using your time and effort in the best possible way? Do you listen louder and make sure your actions align with your values? Remember, it’s not about becoming a therapist; at some point, you need to monetize your relational assets. This means finding ways to leverage your strengths, whether that be in coaching, leadership development, speaking, writing, or other areas.

Creating a relational category is about understanding what drives you, honing your skills, and consistently modeling the behaviors you admire. It's a journey that involves continuous reflection and adjustment, ensuring that your relationships stand out and help you achieve your personal and professional goals.

The Value of Your Relational Category

Creating a relational category isn't just about being good at what you do; it's about how you show up and the value you bring to every interaction. Competence is essential—it’s the foundation of your work. If you weren't a competent writer, coach, or consultant, the relationship wouldn't matter. Your relational category is built on this competence, but it extends far beyond it.

Your body of work—whether through writing, speaking, coaching, or mentoring—reflects this relational thread. Over time, this consistent engagement educates and influences the market, both formally and informally. Those who excel in this area are constantly pushing their relationships to abandon the status quo and embrace new approaches.

For instance, I often talk about a leadership brand. When executives deviate from their core values, I ask them, "Is this the leadership brand you want to be known for?" This reflection helps them align their actions with their desired legacy.

The Lifecycle of Relational Categories

Relational categories evolve over time, much like market categories. Economist Paul Geroski describes a category lifecycle with three phases: define, develop, and dominate.

  1. Define Phase: This is where you establish the category. Early players like Myspace and Facebook defined social media. Similarly, you need to define your relational category by identifying the key problems you solve and the unique value you offer.

  2. Develop Phase: This phase is challenging as the initial buzz fades and many players drop out. It’s a time of refinement and deepening your expertise. Fewer, more dedicated entities remain, working hard to stand out and develop their niche.

  3. Dominate Phase: Eventually, the standout players become dominant forces in their category. Like Facebook in social media, you can become the go-to person in your field, known for your expertise and unique relational approach.

Most people are unwilling to do the necessary work to move through these phases. However, those who persevere through the development phase can achieve dominance, becoming world-class in their relational category.

The Neuroscience Behind Relational Categories

The concept of being a relational category maker is backed by neuroscience. Our brains naturally categorize information to avoid overstimulation in a noisy world. These categories help us relate to and understand others.

Cognitive biases influence our decisions based on instincts, emotions, and gut feelings rather than pure logic. Our intuition about someone is purely relational—how they make us feel and the energy they bring into our interactions.

Our brain creates these relational categories as shortcuts, affecting our behavior and decision-making processes. When we encounter someone, we quickly discern whether to fight or flee, comfort or confront, based on these emotional connections. This categorization helps us navigate our relationships efficiently, making decisions that align with our instincts.

A Roadmap to Becoming a Relational Category Maker

1. Identify Relational Needs

Start by identifying what's missing in your relationship ecosystem. Similar to how companies design products to solve specific problems, look for relational challenges or opportunities. Focus on addressing these gaps to stand out.

2. Show Up Differently

Determine your unique approach and how you can show up differently. Codify your relationship strategy—define what makes you unique. For example, being known as a "relationship economics expert" or a phenomenal listener sets you apart and makes you memorable.

3. Blueprint or Ecosystem

Develop a blueprint or ecosystem for building and nurturing relationships. Identify the people who value your unique approach and create a process for engaging with them. Having a clear game plan demonstrates your commitment and strategy for building strong relationships.

4. Unique Perspectives

Have a clear point of view and non-negotiables in your relationships. Align expectations early on to avoid misunderstandings. For example, make it clear that responsiveness and mutual respect are essential. Stick to your principles to ensure your relationships are based on mutual value.

5. Make Your Mark

Reinforce your relational category through social proofs and consistent actions. Publish content, participate in communities, and create anchors that highlight your expertise. What people say about you when you're not in the room and their unsolicited feedback online are powerful indicators of your relational impact.

6. Create a Relational Flywheel

Continuously elevate and innovate your relational category. Use momentum to enhance your approach. For instance, exploring new topics like the impact of AI on relationships keeps your content fresh and relevant. Hosting annual events or creating platforms for engagement can solidify your position and demonstrate your long-term commitment.

Building Meaningful Relationships Inside and Outside Your Organization

At Nour Group, we understand the profound importance of relationships and their strategic value in today's interconnected world. Our suite of advisory, coaching, and leadership development programs leverage two decades of Relationship Economics® insights to help global teams become more intentional, strategic, and quantifiable in the relationships they choose to invest in.

In the past year, we’ve extended our thought- and practice-leadership into Avnir, a composite AI platform to activate hidden relationship value. Always in beta mode, we're constantly evolving to ensure this platform meets the changing needs of professionals aiming to harness the full potential of their networks.

Learn more about our suite of services at

Relationship Economics, Curve Benders, and Co-Create by David Nour

David Nour is the author of 12 books translated into eight languages, including best-sellers Relationship Economics®, Co-Create, and Curve Benders. He regularly speaks at corporate meetings, industry association conferences, and academic forums on the intentional, quantifiable, and strategic value of business relationships.
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