When we don’t need anything and simply interact with the people around us—with the other students in our classroom, the other players on our sports team, the other professionals in our office, our neighbors next door—we build relationships organically. Proximity leads to conversation and shared experiences, which brings us closer and leads to more conversation and shared experiences. Over time strong bonds form, without force or fakery.

Interaction not strategy2733670609_9ff66fb2df

The relationship you had with your best friend in college, for example, didn’t come about through a series of calculated moves and scripts, but through interaction, open communication and common goals. Even at work, the people we socialize with most are likely to be those in the surrounding cubicles or co-workers on the same project team.

We all have a natural ability to build relationships organically, letting nature take its course without injecting anything artificial into the process to force them to blossom more quickly, or sprout in otherwise inhospitable terrain. If we didn’t have this natural ability, we wouldn’t have any friends or colleagues who like being around us.

Here’s how it happens. First we connect, then we converse, and finally we convert. That’s it.

We’ve done this hundreds and thousands of times “by accident” in our personal lives. We connected with those people who happened to be in the same place we were. We conversed with them, we learned about them and shared something about ourselves as well. Through conversation over time, the interaction converted into friendship.992547455_831f5ec44c

There are different degrees of friendship, of course, and every relationship settles into a natural level. One side might try to push it further, but without a mutual desire on the other side, it’s not likely to happen.

Connect, converse and convert

Yet, when it comes to trying to build relationships purposefully through “networking,” many people say that they just don’t know what to do. They think it’s a completely different process requiring different skills and talents. But it’s really the same, and holds true whether you’re building relationships online or face-to-face.

Still, you do need to inject some thought and direction into how you network so the relationship can lead somewhere for both of you.

271986658_456f5bdb11Over the next few posts, we’ll dive deeper into the Connect, Converse and Convert formula. What’s important to know now is that if you’ve built any relationships at all in your life, even by accident, you can network successfully. It doesn’t take a certain personality, it doesn’t even take a certain number of hours, and it certainly doesn’t have to feel fake.

It’s about understanding that there is a process, knowing how and where to focus your efforts, and getting more in tune with your innate ability. That’s the key to building lasting, productive relationships more easily and naturally.


Liz Lynch is founder of the Center for Networking Excellence and author of Smart Networking: Attract a Following In Person and Online (McGraw-Hill, 2008). Connect with Liz on Twitter at @liz_lynch and get your free Smart Networking Toolkit athttp://www.SmartNetworking.com.