Want to build a network that’s real and full of interesting people? Brush up on your connection skills.
1. Follow up fast.
Send a “Hi there, it was nice to meet you,” note soon after you meet. Depending on the person and the context of your meeting, use the method that seems most appropriate: text, email, phone call, social media, or handwritten note in the mail.
2. Practice basic conversational skills.
There are some good habits that you should make second nature and use in every conversation. For starters, repeat the person’s name during the conversation. Don’t say it too often – as they begins to sound stilted and awkward – but drop the person’s name in twice and say it again when you’re closing the conversation: “It was nice to meet you, Mandy.” Other skills include good eye contact, not interrupting, and speaking in a friendly tone of voice.
3. Look for a way to help.
As you get to know someone, listen for a need or interest in which you have expertise or resources. Think of a practical way you can offer help, and act on it. Send a note or make a call offering the help, or simply send on the information or resource. Bonus points for following up a few days later to see how things worked out.
4. Think in layers.
The first conversational layer is introductory. The second is interpersonal. The third is intimate (which means close, deep, well-known). The goal is to move out of the first and start getting into the second layer. As you develop the relationship, you spend most of your time in the second layer but don’t be afraid to ask deep questions, talk about things that matter, and get into that third layer. That’s where the real, close, and lasting connections are made.
5. Respond quickly.
Don’t ignore any overtures from the other person: text, email, call, invitation, etc. Most people are busy and they may try to follow up or connect once, but if you don’t respond, they most likely will not try again.
6. Mail a handwritten note.
This could be your initial follow-up, or save it for later: a birthday or holiday, or just a later follow-up. And write thank you notes, too. A well-written, sincere thank you note will never go out of style.
7. Avoid one-sided conversations.
A conversation is no good if only one person is talking. Think in this pattern: ask, listen, respond. Ask a leading question (one that can’t be answered by a simple yes or no), then listen carefully to the answer, then respond with your own insight, feedback, or another (related) question. Keep moving in that circle and you’ll keep the conversation from dying. Plus you’ll learn all sorts of stuff about the person you’re talking to.
8. Never assume anything.
Ask. We all make assumptions, based on a person’s appearance, mannerisms, way of speaking, and so on. Train yourself to hold those assumptions away, in a different part of your mind, and act as if you know nothing at all about this person. Because the truth is that you really don’t until you learn it from the person, first-hand.
9. Think about your mission.
What are you looking for? What are you trying to offer? What do you need from and what can you give to this connection? Having a sense of purpose helps you to steer the conversation to interesting topics and deeper questions.
10. Think about the other person’s mission.
What is he or she trying to accomplish? What is his need? What is her purpose? Try to discern what this person is about, and acknowledge it. That helps the other person to feel that you’ve really paid attention, understood, and connected.
11. Be real.
State your real opinions when you are asked. Be honest about what you value or don’t value. This doesn’t mean you have to be obnoxious and loud. But you do need to be true to yourself and your own ideals and experiences; if you don’t, even at the risk of someone’s disapproval, you’ll be starting the whole relationship on a false note. It will be something you can’t maintain.
12. Believe that you have something to offer.
You do. You may not know what it is yet, in each connection you make. But you can find out. If your mindset is that you are here to give, to help, and to uplift others, you will find a way to do it. And that positive attitude and readiness to serve will attract others to you like a magnet.
13. Do social stuff.
No, not social media stuff. Actual social activities, in real life, face to face. Doing fun stuff, not necessarily work-oriented things, can be great even if the relationship is work-related or career-based.
Think about all those cheesy team-building exercises that you’ve had to endure at conferences and seminars. What’s the purpose? The point is to get coworkers to see each other as people and build rapport and personal connections. Too often we box people into certain roles or duties, especially in work-related environments.
Seek out social activities, interactions, and events where you can connect with people as people. Social events are great because they help us to relax in a non-demanding situation, which leads to deeper conversations and better, personal connections.
Featured photo credit: Wayne Large via flickr.com