6 Ways We Can Connect with People
It is a refreshing thing when in the course of doing business, we get to create genuine connections with people. If you take a moment, and think about the vendor or the customer you appreciate the most, it is often the one with whom you have found some common ground. You might have respect for their abilities, drive, or business acumen. You might have found commonality in purpose or cause. You might have kids with similar ages or interests, or you might have a love for the same sport.
Real connections are not often forged quickly. We might meet with someone briefly and feel some commonality, but often that feeling fades, and we are off to the next thing. The interesting thing is that though we treat developing connections lightly, most of us are looking for something deeper.
I’ve been doing somewhat of an experiment using LinkedIn and the results are interesting. I have been reaching out to people I do not know on a regular basis and simply suggesting that we meet. I send a link to an article I wrote and say quite clearly that though I’m always interested in business, I know that connections are what is important in this world, and I would like to meet just to connect. It is surprising how many people indicate their agreement with the statement that connections are so important, but then choose not to meet or talk.
Now, I know that we are all busy. And, I ignore most of the out-of-the-blue emails and notes that come my way just like everyone else. So, I’m not surprised at all by how many people ignore me. What does surprise me is that the ones who do respond often took the time to check out my profile, understand my business, and say in effect that they don’t need any of what I have to offer. It is clear they are missing the point, or can’t believe that I am not just trying to sell them something.
I’ve met some good people in the course of setting up these meetings. Some of them have gone beyond a surface connection, and some of them have been merely short and shallow. What makes the difference?
Here are 6 Ways We Can Truly Connect:
1. Look Outward. Just like the responses to my LinkedIn Messages, many people agree to meet because they want something. Sometimes I struggle myself to move away from the thought that this person either would be a great customer or referral source or has nothing at all to offer. Great connections, the kind that last for years, go beyond just business, and develop into friendships.They are not based on selfish motivation, rather, they are based on a focus and desire to serve others.
2. Be Worth Meeting. This doesn’t sound terribly profound. I’m sure we’ve all met some really boring people… and let’s face it, we’ve probably all been that really boring person. What is it that makes a person interesting? Sometimes it is that they have a great story to tell, but often it is that they are interested in our story. It is the empathy they express, or the kindness they show, or the few words they use that tell us they are on the same page.
3. Ask Great Questions. This may be one of the most underutilized skills in relationships. How do we engage others? Ask them about something important to them. How do we express empathy? Ask them that question that shows we understand. What causes others to feel heard? The fact that we expressed interest in their situation, often through a well asked question. The fact is, we do far too much telling, and not nearly enough asking. As Stephen Covey so aptly expressed, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Listening with an intent to understand results in questions that go deeper, and those questions result in more meaningful connections.
4. Set Aside Time. Time is one of those things that is truly important. As some have said, it is a non-renewable resource, more important than money. We can always get more money, but we can’t get more time. Even as I write, I am questioning my expenditure of time. What better way to spend your time than on others? Give your time to real connections with people, and they will flourish into friendships that will pay great rewards.
5. Guard Your Attention. We live in the age of distraction. The smartphone in our pocket has become the greatest focus killer of our age. Have you ever grabbed your phone to look something up, been distracted by something on the screen, and then 5, 10 or 15 minutes later wondered what it was that you were doing? Have you ever been with that person who appears much more interested in their phone than in you? If not, you might just be that person! All the distraction makes it just that much more important to truly connect. If that phone is a problem, leave it in the car, turn off the alarms, do something that allows you to focus on what really matters, people.
6. Be Intentional. Just like most things in life that matter, it takes intention to create relationships. Bill Clinton is known for remembering things about people and some say he “networked” his way to the White House. On the surface we might just think he had a good memory or was a great “talker”. In reality, he was intentional. He is said to have created over 10,000 index cards, by the time he became president. Each of these index cards represented notes he made at night after meeting and conversing with people. He “remembered” people because he made a point to. How can we be intentional and value people? It might be by taking notes, or it might be by reaching out with a text. It might be by remembering an important date. Whatever it is, mark it down, and make it happen!
In his book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell says, “The ability to connect with others begins with understanding the value of people.” This is the starting point of truly connecting. When we learn to value people, and let that translate to the way we communicate, we will create real connections.
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.