To be honest, I hate the idea of networking events. I’m extroverted, so talking to people all day doesn’t bother me. Being around others is energizing, but going to an event where people are encircling others, peddling their business cards, trying to make connections that bring them the most value, sounds miserable to me. Nothing about these events feels genuine, and people rarely leave with lasting relationships.
Think about it. Most real interactions happen in a place far different from a networking event. At Sunday School, we don’t size up other church members, thinking about what angle we can play to get the right business deal. Or at the gym, we don’t workout next to the person we think has the most power to advance our career. We interact with these people casually and genuinely. We are there to get better, and when we meet people, we want to get to know them for who they are, not what they can do. These environments allow us to interact on an equal playing field. In authentic places, we make successful relationships.
Unfortunately, most business relationships don’t turn into real friendships. But today, I’m going to give you three things that will help you create connections that are mutually beneficial and that last beyond a transaction.
1. See everyone as your equal.
When you believe that no one is above you, it allows you to have genuine interactions with people that would normally intimidate you. When I was in college at the University of Georgia, I had the unique opportunity to build friendships with Coach Mark Richt and Hall of Fame Coach Vince Dooley. These are men I look up to and admire, but the first time I met them, I didn’t ask for their autographs or try to take a picture with them—I just talked to them. I was “beneath” them in every way. I was younger. I had no money or status. I lacked experience. Yet, just by making a personal connection, I built relationships with them that have lasted more than a decade.
The same is true for people that you might think are beneath you. So many people walk into a room and search for the most “important” or “influential” person. They want to interact with the people that “matter” and often run over others, trying to make that elusive connection. This is a mistake. First and foremost, it’s rude, but it’s also a missed opportunity. You’ll gain value from the people that you would normally think are beneath you. You never know what you might learn from someone, what stories you might hear, and what surprising connections you might make when you stop only seeking those with status.
2. Be genuinely curious.
When you ask great questions, you learn amazing things about people. Too often we are more interested in selling ourselves, so we either talk too much or only ask questions that lead back to our product or service. Asking good questions helps create stronger connections. If your goal is to build an authentic friendship, you have to care about this person and show you care. In the same way that you would engage your family and close friends, find out the things that matter most to people. We all want to know that someone cares about us and is interested in us. It’s actually quite simple: To seem interested in others, you need to be interested in others.
3. Add value.
Nobody likes the person that’s only looking out for themselves. If you’re always looking for what’s in it for you, you won’t add much value to others. Sure, you might make the sale or close your deal, but you won’t create a relationship that lasts beyond the transaction. Maybe you’re asking, “With my age and stage, how can I add value to someone who is in a different place?” Add value by sharing your experiences. Encourage the other person, tell meaningful stories, and ask engaging questions. Simply being interesting in conversation adds more value than you think.
I believe that everyone can get better at building relationships. This is an area that’s worth your focus.
Remember that people are people.
Everyone has a story worth telling.
Everyone has a story worth hearing.
Creating meaningful relationships will probably help your business and will definitely improve your life.