The connections we make in our lives are just as important as the lives we choose to lead. They feed us. They supplement the things we want to do with our time on this planet. But by their very nature, they are paradoxical, for if you seek out new connections with the intent of filling gaps and voids in existence, you run the risk of alienating every connection that you have, leaving you with NONE.
I LOVE meeting new people. I thrive on it. Within the first five minutes of meeting someone, I try and get a feel for what they’re all about. After working a decade in customer service, I’ve come to abhor small talk. I think small talk, while it has its purposes as an icebreaker, that’s all it is. You cannot develop a meaningful relationship from small talk alone! Small talk is the ultimate indication of not being invested in a conversation.
So instead of small talk, in those first five minutes, I’ll be asking question that really help me understand somebody:
- What do you do with your free time?
- What makes you tick?
- If you had unlimited funds, what would you be doing right now?
Contrast this to:
- What do you do?
- How do you know _____________ (fill in the blank with the name of the party host)?
- Have you been here before?
I am of the belief that we should build every relationship we have with others confident that they have the potential to be ones that can last for the rest of our lives.
(Now obviously, this won’t be the case — any relationship that’s worth anything will involve much time and effort to keep it going: phone calls, emails, time spent together. You do not have the time available to you to make EVERY relationship a strong relationship. However, that shouldn’t stop you from making an attempt to do so.)
But with this, there is one rule you must NEVER forget — it’s mentioned in many books by networking “gurus” and in training materials for both executives and young professionals trying to make their way in the professional world:
Ask not what they can do for you, but what YOU can do for THEM.
Sounds reminiscent of JFK
, doesn’t it? It’s such an old way of thinking, yet we seem to constantly forget it! If I’m meeting you for the first time, I’m asking you questions to:
- See where I can help
- See where I might know people who are able to help
- See where YOU might be able to help OTHERS
When you go into a new situation reeking of the impression that you’re out to get something from people — that you’re there to meet people for some ulterior motive — it turns people off instantly. You might be the nicest person in the world, but give that vibe off and it won’t even matter.
So make connections as honestly and transparently as you possible can. If you see a situation where you can help, HELP. If a question’s asked and you know the answer to it, ANSWER IT. There have been too many times where I’ve been in a classroom, seminar
or meeting, and people are just too afraid to speak up
. These situations are full of missed opportunities to connect and few come out of them for the better.
Without connecting with others, life can be far more difficult than it needs to be. For example, our wedding wouldn’t be coming along as smoothly as it is without help:
- The jeweller for the ring was referred through a friend
- The flowers and card stock for the invitations were referred through one of Sarah’s coworkers
- My buddy Tyrone printed the invitations for us
- We found our photographers through Twitter
…and so on. A lot of it has come together through having connected with people in the past and being willing to make connections now.
So go forth. Connect. But remember — try to fool anyone and you’re only fooling yourself.