THE IMPORTANCE OF CONNECTIONS AND HOW TO MAKE THEM
Connections are one of your biggest resources towards doing work you love. In one of my previous posts I shared with you how connections helped me to find a job in Munich while I was still in Turkey. I also shared with you how connections could help you to get the job you want. But that’s not it.
Why Connections are Important
1. Connections shift your “normal”
Did you hear the saying “You are the average of 5 people you most hang out with”. I am not sure about that but I am sure that the connections shift your perspective. Your normal changes. I have three examples of how my connections changed my normal.
First- I used to be the “humble” one. I did not speak out when I knew something, for me speaking out meant bragging. That was what I saw from my parents. That was my normal. Then, when I was at the university speaking out was encouraged and everybody was doing it. It felt difficult for me in the beginning but that was the normal and I got used to it.
Second – I was unsure about quitting my job. I didn’t have any one around me that had quit. I knew I wanted it, but I could not dare. I joined groups where it was ok to talk about it, where people were asking similar questions, where a few people actually dared. Talking about it, talking with people who understand, who dared gave me the courage and made It possible for me.
The third example is the most recent one. I never liked running. Since from my early memories, running was gruesome. I puffed, lacked breath, had a crazy beating heart. I was convinced about the benefits of running but it was just too painful for me. So I gave up on the idea of running thinking I would never be able to do it. Then some of my friends picked up running, then some more friends and then some more…Some friends who were just like me. From not being able to run at all, they started running marathons. I got encouraged and I also gave it a go. I believed that I could do it, I gave myself time, I was mindful, I enjoyed the training. Now i am able to run 12 km without a problem.
You see how my connections change my reality?
2. Connections increase your possibilities
How did you decide on your current job? Based on your knowledge of the possible jobs, right? You made a choice from all the jobs you knew, the jobs your relatives had or the jobs your family’s friends and neighbours had. Maybe by time, you had a bigger selection, you got to know other jobs on media, on job portals and so on. But there are a lot of people that invented their jobs, or new jobs have emerged that you haven’t heard of. How can you learn about them? From your connections or connections of your connections!
Your connections are a great source of information and help. You can get new information from your friends about anything actually. You cannot be interested in everything but your friends will be interested in some things that you are not. Your friends will be good at somethings you are not. In a way, they will complete you. They will create possibilities for you.
3. Connections are your intermediaries to reach anyone
An addition to the point above, you cannot know everyone in the world. If you’d like to reach someone, you might not know them but but your connections might do. You cannot imagine to whom you can access through your contacts. Did you hear about the Six Degrees of Separation? It is a theory that we are connected to anyone in the world by 6 connections.
I have this funny story about it. I told my husband about my couch surfing host in Bologna who used to have a “clothes optional” apartment. We found out that it was his English teacher when he was living there. We had a people in common way before I met him. Well this connection probably was not that practical. So I made a search about how connected i was to powerful people. I could not think of many names and the names I thought of were not all on LinkedIn but my findings were quite impressive too. I have 2 degrees of separation with Obama and Conan O’Brian, 3 degrees of separation with Bill Gates and Christine Lagarde.
Your direct contact can vouch for you when s/he introduces you to his contact and you increase your circle of friends very easily by that. That can lead to new friendships, partnerships, ideas, work… anything you would like.
4. Connections complete your picture of the world and yourself
What we see in the world is only part of the reality. Do you remember the lyrics of Madonna’s song Frozen “you only see what your eyes want to see…” ?
Wrong! You only see what you need to see. Otherwise you could go crazy! Our brains are wonderful machines that work for our survival. We have selective perception. We filter out the “irrelevant information”. But this is not the only filter we have. We have a second filter we use while making a meaning out of the visual information we gathered. We make a meaning out of what we see based on our filters, our previous knowledge of the world and things. So we are terribly biased. To make informed decision, we need to see a bigger picture. Of the world and of ourselves. The feedback we can get from our contacts can help us with that.
When we want to communicate something we can check with our contacts if what we say is understood the same way we say it. (the meanings of things are so personal)
5. Connections are your mirrors
Connections give you a possibility to see your self in another light. You realise something about yourself in every interaction. What makes you angry? What you love, what you are interested in? When do they listen to you closely? When do they ask you for advice? By observing your interactions and your reactions you can learn a great deal about yourself. You can also ask for their support and ask them directly what they observe about you.
6. Your connections are your connections to life
Ok, now you see how connections are important but how to build those connections? I have 7 tips for you.
7 Tips for Connecting with Anyone
1. Make a preparation
If you will join an event and you have the possibility to see the participants list, take a look at and check who you find really interesting and would like to connect. You can even make a little research about them. Once you are at the venue, you know who you would approach.
2. 3-2-1 Hello!
Every connection starts with a hello! So simple, right? But sometimes it feels very difficult. We are shy, we don’t want to disturb or we are scared of rejection. We all do have the same struggle but what is the worst that can happen? Don’t let the fears steal your possibilities of valuable connections. Implement the 3-2-1 Rule! When you want to talk to someone, say 3-2-1 and go and say hello. No excuses. You will see that it will come easier by time.
Once you say hello you can use an opener and tell what made you approach them. Maybe it was their energy? Maybe you heard some laughs? “Hello I heard a lot of laughter here and wanted to get some myself! My name is Isil” and you give your hand. If you had prepared to connect with the person before the event (as we mention at point 1) you can just go and tell what made you choose this person to connect.
If it was a speaker at an event a good opener can be thanking for the speech and telling what you really liked about the speech.
3. Be curious, show interest, build rapport
While you are talking with the person, give all your attention to him. Ask questions, and show that you are interested with your language and your posture. Listening to someone is a great gift you can give. To make them at ease, you have to build rapport and this you can do by witnessing them and adapting your posture, your speed of speaking and the pitch of your voice. Some people can be more calm, speaking in a lower tone of voice and using less body language. If you are a person with huge body gestures speaking loud (like me), you might disturb the connection between you. Witness and adapt the communication style and posture to the person you are speaking with to build rapport.
4. Use your Elevator pitch
Elevator pitch is a 1 minute speech that tells who you are. I have some friends who get goose bumps when they hear the term because it feels too “fake” or too “corporate”. It can be, but let’s be open minded here. The reason I talk about elevator pitch is that it is a great tool to be concise when you talk about yourself. If you are unprepared, you might think out loud, make very long sentences and can end up hijacking the conversation. I know how that could be because I did that many times. I realised it when I looked at the eyes of my listeners who were in a trance.
Having an elevator pitch makes it easier for you to stay focused at the person you want to connect with. You can tell shortly and concisely who you are and what are you interested in (Recently or especially to get from the event) and continue getting to know the other party and things in common which bring us to next point.
5. Find commonalities
The key to connecting with anyone is finding commonalities. There is a tension and a tendency to reject any information or cue coming from the other party when there is the feeling of separation, a feeling of “non-belonging” or belonging to two different groups. The trust, opening up and connection only happens when we feel we are in the same group together. If you want to connect with people, if you want to convince people, get people in board, establish this “we belong together” feeling as soon as possible.
Although the purpose of the following video is not to show you how to connect with people, it tells what can happen when we feel we are in two different groups and how we can get people on board by finding commonalities.
In one to connections, you can look for commonalities by asking questions and learning more about the person. It might be a friend in common, a city you visited, a hobby…Find a topic where you are in the same group and take it from there. You might use the Acronym called F.I.S.H. to help you with your questions.
F – friends, family: Who do you know in common?
I – interests: What does the person do for fun? What is taking his interest these days? (This question is so much better than asking “What do you do?” because some people do not like their jobs and talking about their jobs will make them feel sad and will make the conversation unpleasant. Other questions can be about favourite hobbies, books and values the person cares about.
S– Strengths/sex: What is this person good at? You can drive this from the conversation and find if you have anything in common. Sex is actually the relationship matters. Are they in a relationship? Newly married? Divorced… This may also create some deeper conversations if it is a common topic to you.
H– Health/ fitness: What health- dietary choices the person has? Maybe some new diet you both tried, being vegetarian, doing Zumba or cross fit… another topic where you can connect.
The goal is to find common topics to talk more about and to enjoy belonging in the same group.
6. Understand how you can support
The essence of connecting is giving. Understand how you can help this person. What can you do to make his goals move forward… Who you can introduce him to? Anything you read that might be of interest to him? Any talent, skill, connection, knowledge you have can help him? During your conversation try to collect information to understand in what way you can help and support this person.
7. Follow up
When you go home, write a personal note about how you enjoyed talking with him/her. Add also something you think can help them/ support them. An example could be sharing a resource “I remember you told me that you were learning Italian. This is a very nice Youtube channel that I enjoyed watching that teaches new vocabulary. Maybe it can also help you…”. Or you can connect them with another connection of yours: “You told me that you were going to apply for a job in Company X. My friend Leo works there, if you’d like I can introduce you too.” This can be anything really, anything that shows you thought of them and you cared. After that, only after that, if you’d like you can ask for a support too, something very easy for them to do. Such as a connection for what you are interested in right now (Do you know anybody I can talk to about my trip to Italy? I would like to visit local wineries…”) or a book suggestion. By doing that you would be giving them the chance to give a gift.
These seven steps will help you connect with anyone. Always keep in mind that connecting is about giving and sharing. It all starts with a hello, key to establish the connection is to be curious, show interest and find commonalities. Remember the follow up the personal connection with a personalised note and your gift “ a way to support your new connection”.
I hope you a wonderful connected time in the world!