6 Ways to Make REAL Connections
By Nancy D. O’Reilly, Psy.D.
Today’s 24/7 mobile culture dictates that a lot of busy-ness masquerades as successful business activity. It seems that we barely stop to breathe, much less reach out to a friend for lunch or make a real person-to-person phone call. It’s easier to hide behind the screen of our mobiles or our prepared elevator speeches than to make real connections. But is it really helping you advance your career? I thought not. So why do it? Here are 6 ways to make real connections.
It’s time to stop the chatter, both online and in person, and create real relationships. I call it Connecting 2.0. It’s more meaningful than the “mile-wide and inch-deep” type of connecting we associate with social media. It’s based on sharing and co-creating, switching the focus from “me” to “we.” The best thing is that it’s in our DNA to do it. Next time you decide to go to a networking event, take time to rethink the process and create a strategy. Plan to achieve a particular goal during the precious time you spend there.
- Use what nature gave you. Women are natural relationship creators. It’s why we communicate, says gender communications expert Claire Damken-Brown, Ph.D. Our first step to complete a task is to establish a rapport, remembering that people have different styles. For example, results-driven men want short yes-no answers without detailed explanations. Look at networking as something that you need to do, and the people you will meet as the collaborators who can help you make it successful.
- Overcome your fear. Many of us are afraid we’ll get caught flat-footed in social situations. I say, do what you’re afraid of. It’s the best way to keep fear from blocking you. Fear is also in our DNA; it’s a basic instinct for safety and survival. But you can overcome your fear by shifting your perspective away from self to the people you meet.
- Switch focus from me to we. You can transform networking into the foundation of a relationship. The shared collaboration of creating something together is one of the most rewarding relationships possible. I always say, put five women in a room and watch them get it done. In fact, when the going is tough, bonds of shared battles, successes and failures can and do create life-long friendships.
- Set a specific goal (or 2).
This can be as vague as to “learn something new” or as focused as “meet Ms. VP of Marketing and ask her what she looks for in a colleague.” Even if it’s a group you’ve attended many times, a workplace event or a professional organization, set out to accomplish some specific goal.
- Prepare questions in advance. These should serve your goal, so yes or no are not acceptable answers. Develop questions that reveal a personal perspective. If your purpose is to meet new people and learn ways you might work with them in the future, ask relationship-building questions. You might start with, “What would you do even if you didn’t get paid for it?” “What is the most important thing in the world to you?” “If you could live anywhere, where would you live?” The obvious follow-up to any of these is “Why?” Remember, asking thoughtful questions that elicit truthful caring and sharing between participants, and really listening to the answers help create strong in-person connections.
- Focus on giving rather than receiving. When we quit thinking of ourselves and give to others, it actually triggers our pleasure centers and turns on our endorphins. Science has actually measured it. In simple terms, we have more fun. We learn about someone else; we connect our passions and concerns with theirs; we find out how connected and alike we are. We may even make new friends.
I am convinced that when women collaborate, we can do anything. Start collaborating at your next networking opportunity. Then, remember to pick up the phone instead of texting, or send a personal note by snail mail. Your extra thoughtfulness will be rewarded with a deeper connection.
About the Author:
Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, is an author of Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life* as well as a clinical psychologist, motivational speaker, and women empowerment expert. O’Reilly is the founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc., and for seven years she has interviewed inspiring women for online podcasts available on her website. For more information, please visit www.drnancyoreilly.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.
*The Three Tomatoes Cheryl Benton is one of the 20 co-authors.