by Stever Robbins
I believe in the power of relationships to help you succeed. And I love having friends! But it’s really hard for me to make them. Fortunately, I’m reading Who’s Got Your Back? by Keith Ferrazzi. It’s all about how great it is to have a support network of people who care about each other and are willing to hold each other accountable to their own dreams and goals.
How Do You Meet People?
That sounds wonderful! But first, you actually have to meet people. You have to find them and deepen your relationship to the point where you can count on each other.
Once you’re out of school, where do you meet people? I wish there were a magical place to go where it was easy to find new friends. Some people attend networking events, but standing around in a suit eating cheese cubes doesn’t exactly bring out my personality.
I like fun events. When having fun, I meet people, even business connections, in the unlikeliest places: conferences on entrepreneurship, science fiction, hypnosis, changing the world, yoga, board games, live action role-playing, the National Book Expo, coaching, swing dancing, comedy improv, podcasting and musical theater. To name a few.
Say “Hello” Gracie
As you may recall from my last episode on networking, striking up a conversation is easy. First finish chewing and swallow that hors d’oeuvre you’re munching. In fact, eat the whole handful. Shaking someone’s hand while you’re still holding a piece of chicken liver wrapped in bacon isn’t the best way to start.
Once your hands are free, just walk up and say, “Hi, we don’t know each other. My name is insert your name.” And that’s it. Now you’re talking. If they look at you like you’re a six-legged creature from another dimension, say “It was a pleasure meeting you” and go on to the next person. Life is too short to deal with jerks.
Strike Up a Meaningful Conversation
Now that you’re talking, what do you talk about? If you want to be utterly forgettable, talk about business. Better yet, talk about the value of your portfolio. That will fill several fun-filled hours and ensure you won’t even need to follow up on the conversation, since they’ll run screaming from the room any time they hear your name in the future.
According to Ferrazzi, vulnerability is the key to intimacy. Rather than talking about the weather, open yourself up and put yourself out there. Be a little vulnerable. Share a weakness, a concern, or an insecurity. Things like this:
That speaker was brilliant. I’m not even sure I understood the whole thing.
I never know how to meet people at events like this.
This is my first conference on world hunger. It feels so daunting and overwhelming.
You will quickly find yourself with a real connection to the other person. Finding the right level of vulnerability is an art. The list of not-vulnerable topics includes the weather, the size of your … portfolio, and how your Vulcan ears keep falling off in the heat. The list of too-vulnerable topics—also known as “oversharing” or TMI (too much information)—includes anything you’ve been diagnosed with, physically or mentally, or any topic that would require the listener to imagine you naked. Or both.
Move From Vulnerability to Dreams, Dreamer
Once you have a connection, if it’s going well, move on and share your hopes and dreams. People want to help others achieve their dreams; it’s way more fun that calculating the net present value of a bond payment. If you don’t tell them, though, they can’t offer. And listen to their dreams. Maybe you’ll find yourself wanting to help them. Speaking of which, my dream is to become a business correspondent on the Rachel Maddow show. Rachel, if you’re out there, call.
Again, until you know someone well, share your smaller dreams: returning to school for your graduate degree, learning to play piano, or writing a novel. That business about abandoning civilization and living with a Gorilla tribe to get in touch with your inner animal? TMI.
Once you’ve made a real emotional connection, follow up! I’m amazed at how many people never take a relationship any further. Call soon and invite your new friend to lunch. Then meet someone else and take them to lunch. Then invite both of your new friends so you start to build a connection between them, too. That way when people see you together and say, “I like your friends,” you can smile and say “Thank you. I made them myself.”
This is Stever Robbins. Follow me on
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Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!