Step 1: Connect
We started this series last week by exploring the concept of building relationships organically, the natural way nearly all of us follow when we aren’t trying so hard to get something.
Without thinking about it, we do go through an instinctive process of connecting, conversing and converting. We connect with the people around us at work, at school, in our community. We converse with them, learn who they are and share something about ourselves. And then through conversation over time, the interaction converts into friendship.
You don’t have to change how you relate to people to network successfully if you just tap into your natural instincts with this natural process.
This week, we cover the Connect step in more detail. How can you connect more organically, without the uncomfortable feeling that you’re forcing yourself on others?
A big part of the solution is to connect more deeply with more people who are already around you, those involved in the same activities, interested in the same issues, or pursuing the same goals. When you already share a common purpose with someone, the rest of the process of conversation and conversion flow more easily.
Here are some things you can do to increase the number and improve the quality of your organic relationships.
Increase and improve
Make a list. Identify people around you whom you should get to know. For example, people in other departments, those whose work is linked to yours, where more cooperation and an open line of communication can help both of you do your jobs better. Learn more about the interdependencies and brainstorm ways to better support one another.
Be inclusive. Rather than eat lunch every day with your usual cohort of colleagues, or hang out with the same three people for every meal at a multi-day conference, invite others to join you. Explore the circumstances that brought you to the same place and you may discover common goals and values on which to build meaningful and productive relationships.
Don’t go it alone. Get involved in things that interest you but do them with other people. In the book Bowling Alone, Robert D. Putnam chronicled that the percentage of Americans joining organized groups—whether they be sports leagues, professional associations, political committees, etc.—has declined dramatically over the last 30-40 years.
Yet, when we share experiences with others, we can’t help but grow closer. You might really enjoy your independence, but mixing it up every once in a while and doing the same activity in a group environment is an easy way to build relationships organically.
Take advantage of whatever environments you’re in to bond with the people around you. Effortless relationships are all around us, ready to be made, if we just open the gates.
Stay tuned next week for more detail on Step 2: Converse.
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 at http://www.SmartNetworking.com.