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Do you like networking?
Me neither. I often want to run screaming from cocktail parties.
Yet I do like people–they are endlessly fascinating. And this, my friends, is how you can learn to love networking.
Here’s the key: The more you help people get what they want, the more they’ll help you. When you’re networking, you’re not just looking blindly for people who can give you stuff; you’re looking to create another kind of family—people you care about, people who will care about you.
“Palm Up” Networking
Have you ever noticed there’s a physicality to the “gimme”? There’s a way people look at you when they want something: eager, impatient, and expectant. Sometimes they are leaning forward, as if preparing to grab. They’re watching for their moment, and if they don’t get it, their disappointment is reflected all over their face. Ick.
Relax and get to know the people you’re talking to. Ask them about their business, their ideal customer, and their goals. Ask what they do for fun, find out what they care about. People have fascinating lives, businesses, challenges, and triumphs. Seek out these stories. See how fascinating they are.
When I was in my thirties I used to think, “I do so many favors for ___, but whenever I ask for help they don’t come through.” I’d feel bitter or resentful: a closed fist instead of an open hand. Now I realize that there are larger laws of the universe at work.
When people ask you for favors, do them if you can. Do them if you have the resources, the time, and the ability. Know that you’ll get favors in return; just don’t stress out if they don’t come from people you’ve helped. I’m not advocating letting yourself be taken advantage of—have healthy boundaries. Putting your efforts out there gets the ball rolling; trust that the good will come back to you. Trust that the universe has a perfect accounting system.
6 Ways Anyone Can Build Bonds Faster
Here are my favorite ways to build fun and fulfilling relationships.
1. Equalize yourself with others. We all have one unit of self-worth—no more, no less. Just because people are powerful, rich, or famous doesn’t mean they are better than you. Practice equalizing yourself with others—remember we all were drooling babies, confused teenagers, and will all grow old and die. We are the same.
2. Build your networking momentum. Talk to people . . . all the time, in line at the store, on an airplane. Talking to a man in line at Starbucks resulted in my starting a company, getting venture capital, and selling my shares a few years later to NewsCorp. I’ve met amazing mentors, started businesses, and made new friends simply by striking up a conversation. Not sure how to start? Offer a compliment. There’s always something attractive or admirable to notice about a stranger. Be sincere about it.
3. Rolodex dip. This is a fun practice when you want to connect with someone but aren’t sure who. Flip through your contact database until you find a name that makes you smile. Then call that person up just to see how he or she is. Your contact will be surprised and delighted.
4. Daily appreciation. Appreciate at least one person daily. I often do this via e-mail, so I can be thorough; often, to my delight, the recipients will tell me that they are saving the message for when they need a pick-me-up. You can also express appreciation over the phone or in person. Simply tell others how much you appreciate who they are, what they do, whatever about them moves you. They’ll be great, you’ll feel great, everyone wins.
5. “Sensei of the day.” Each day I pick a sensei, a teacher. This is someone who has taught me a lesson or reminded me of something important in life. Your sensei can be a person, a pet, a plant, it doesn’t matter. You are being offered valuable lessons constantly.
6. Do the Drive-By Schmooze. Parties, conventions, and groups of all sorts are great opportunities, but sometimes you’ll be tired, not in the mood, or have too many events in one evening. This is when you’ll need to use the Drive-By Schmooze.
- Timebox your networking. Decide that in 30 minutes you’ll do a check-in to determine if you need to stay any longer.
- Let your intuition guide you. You may think this sounds odd but give it a try anyway. Stand near the door, in a corner, or out of the way. Stop your thoughts. Internally ask to be guided to the people you need to connect with. Then start walking. You’ll be amazed at who you meet.
- Make connections. Approach a person, introduce yourself, ask what he or she does for a living. Ask the two most important networking questions: How did you get started in your field? What’s your ideal customer? We all love to talk about ourselves, and these questions will not only help you form a connection, but will also tell you how to help the person.
- Offer help and follow through. If you can provide help, jot down ideas on the back of their business card, commit to follow up, and then do it.
Cocktail party invite? Bring it!
The above simple techniques will help you work a room like Bill Clinton, make you feel more connected to people, lessen your dependence on technology for building relationships, and make you more friends.
How do you like to connect with others? Do tell…