By: Dr. MaryJo Burchard
This week, I am having lunch with a very important friend. She has walked with me in pivotal moments, challenged my thinking, and inspired me to take healthy risks in my own development. I will invest a 3-hour commute to meet with her, and I know the meeting will be meaningful for both of us.
And this will be the first time we have met face-to-face.
This friendship started with an unsolicited message in my LinkedIn mailbox. She had noticed that we shared many interests and pursuits and simply invited me to talk. Genuinely curious but not wanting to give any false expectations, I wrote back, clarifying that I was not in any position to buy anything. It was just a 30-minute phone conversation with a stranger in response to a LinkedIn message – but it resulted in a true friend I didn’t know I needed – a friend I would never have just “found.”
Can we stumble into important connections by simply making room in the universe for them to happen? We can. And in a world surrounded by “followers” and hashtags and sterilized media-driven communication, we need to decide to try.
Making connections is not just about networking for business
It’s about slowing down and seeing people. It’s about taking even a brief moment to be with someone in what is important to them. That’s why connection is so powerful: it begins with the assumption that – even if we seem to have nothing in common – we impact each other simply by existing, and that impact deserves honor. It’s a mindset that dares to find the hidden shared experience.
What does making connections have to do with doing good business? Everything
People know when they’re being used. Skip the investment of making a true connection, and you may get a one-off if they need the service you have to offer and they have no other options. But take just a little extra time to connect with your client, customer, or coworker, and you begin to build an alliance. You have given something a life of its own. Robin Sharma said, “The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.” Do one well, and you’ll do both.
You are wired for connection
It satisfies a most basic human need. You may be able to survive without connection by distracting yourself with power, busy-ness, responsibilities, entertainment, or other temporal noise. But you cannot live without it. Solitary, disconnected people cannot be whole.
Once you know what’s important to others, you can get really creative connecting with people outside of yourself: people with resources can be referred to people with needs; people with insight can be introduced to people with questions. You can build a community of connection around you, sharing what you know is important with others who need to connect.
Fred Rogers articulated this reality so clearly: “If you only could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” You may never be able to see the impact your one simple act of connection will have on the lives of others. But you’ll never know what you’re capable of setting into motion if you’re not intentional about connecting.
How can you start making connections as a way of life?
- Start “local.” Connection begins where you already are. Set out to truly connect with someone in your normal stream of life: a neighbor, a co-worker, even a family member. People are counting on you to connect with them.
- Look for clues. People leave hints all around them about the things that matter most to them: a pin on their lapel, a photo above their desk, even a tattoo. So often, they’re looking for an opportunity to say out loud what matters to them. It doesn’t take long to see the clues once you start to look.
- Launch. Be the one to ask the question. Put yourself out there – get genuinely curious about the things that seem to matter to someone else, and you will not be disappointed.
- Listen. Rachel Naomi Remen said, “The most basic and powerful way to connect with another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention… A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.”
What are some ways you have found to connect?
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