What’s it about?

The Lost Art of Connecting (2021) establishes more authentic relationships at work and in life. It illustrates how professional networking doesn’t always have to be transactional and suggests the three-step Gather, Ask, Do method for building meaningful relationships and breaking down the technological boundaries to deeper human connection.

About the author:

Susan McPherson is a “serial connector” and founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focusing on the intersection between brands and social impact. She’s contributed to the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Forbes magazines.

Be specific about your intentions if you want to make real professional connections:

Assume you’re starting a new job for the first time. You enter your first significant meeting. There are a bunch of new faces all around you.  You have no friends! Panic comes in, and your mind races with questions like, “Who should I talk to?” What are these strangers going to think of me? What am I supposed to look like? What am I supposed to say?

You’re not alone if you’ve experienced this situation before. Even extroverts, such as Susan McPherson, a communications expert and self-described “serial connector,” feel nervous in unfamiliar social circumstances. However, by following the author’s three-step methodology  Gather, Ask, Do, you can overcome your fear of networking.

For millennia, the night sky has captivated people with its vista of constellations. But have you ever considered that only a tiny percentage of the galaxy’s 250 billion stars align in just the correct manner to generate those notable constellations? And, just as you have no idea what constellations are above you until you look for them, you have no idea how you’re related to people until you look for the patterns that connect you. That is the purpose of the first Gather phase.

Connect with yourself initially to lay the groundwork for your unique constellation. Examining how you act in personal interactions can help you understand how you work professionally.

According to psychotherapist Esther Perel, most social skills are acquired throughout childhood, which means they will be carried to the job later in life. So, even though you conceive yourself as having a separate work persona, your “work self” and “personal self” are the same at the end of the day; they share the same personal past. That’s why, while assessing your professional compatibility with others, you should examine your personal relationships – such as how you resonate conflict or what you need to trust someone.

It’s also critical to have a clear understanding of your professional priorities. Are you looking for a job? Are you on the lookout for a business partner? Or perhaps you have a concept that needs to be discussed with a professional. Make a list of your aims and keep it accessible. You may choose which professional relationships to seek in the next phase by being deliberate about your needs and wants

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It’s crucial to expand your network, but don’t overlook the value of the one you already have:

What comes to mind when you think of social networking? Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? There are limitless ways to connect with so many media outlets. In reality, we can socialize with anyone, at any time, anywhere.

However, technology hasn’t helped us improve the quality of our social relationships. According to a Pew Research Center research, between 1985 and 2009, the average number of close associates per American adult shrank by up to one-third. In fact, social media makes it more challenging to sustain solid and meaningful ties.

The lost art of connecting humans to humans has made it easy to live in isolation, with too many focusing entirely on their network activities and on how they might benefit from it.

This increasing sense of social isolation pervades the workplace as well. According to a 2018 survey conducted by Olivet Nazarene University, the average American believes 15% of their coworkers to be genuine friends and 22% to be utter strangers. The remaining 41% are merely coworkers. It’s no wonder that people’s networks are collapsing in light of these statistics.

Don’t forget about the folks you already know when creating your cluster. They have their own set of relationships, which in turn have their own set of relationships, and so on. So, while you may not have a direct touch with the big-shot executive who might propel your career forward, your colleague’s uncle might.

Make a list of the top contacts in your constellation in which you can acquire from or help in some way once you’ve established your corporate goals. Don’t dismiss people simply because they aren’t directly relevant to your objectives. And don’t allow fear to hold you back, whether it’s fear of failing or fear of looking foolish. Think outside the box and cast a broad net; you could be shocked at how many potentially rewarding connections you’re overlooking.

Positive interactions have an impact on your career and mental health in ways that LinkedIn connections cannot. According to a study released in the Journal of Applied Psychology, sharing ideas with people in your immediate network boosts creativity in third- and fourth-degree connections. When your constellation grows, so does everyone else’s in your network, and conversely. Finally, you never know where a friendship will take you.

Focus on how you can help others to build genuine relationships:

Consider a typical networking event. You’re in a crowded hotel lobby, where everyone is looking for a job, a business card, or an investment, and you can’t wait to get out. People don’t show up to interact on a human level; instead, they’re driven by a what’s-in-it-for-me perspective, which is part of what makes the conventional networking model so unappealing.

In the age of social media connectivity, this commercial attitude has become the norm: you make an online post, then wait to be recognized with a follow, like, or comment in exchange. While these kinds of relationships are beneficial in the near term, they can only go so far. They also, sadly, do not create a genuine human relationship.

Reaching out to new professional contacts via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social media platforms has become second nature for many. However, as we’ve seen, technology tends to encourage shallow, impersonal interactions. So, no matter how worried you are about meeting someone in person after chatting online for a while, if you’ve been corresponding online for a time, the Ask phase is the way to take it offline.

You don’t have to settle if you despise networking events or can’t locate any you’d like to participate in: make your own connecting opportunities. You may, for example, volunteer at a local charity or invite friends over for coffee. Begin modest and straightforward, keeping the meetings intimate and brief at the beginning.

Instead of worrying about what you can gain from the deal, concentrate on how you can help without any strings attached. Consider the problems the respondent may experience before sending your subsequent LinkedIn request.

Consider, “How can I assist?” Make a list of a few ideas. Make some inquiries. Perhaps someone in your network would be ideal for the project of your possible new friend. Alternatively, perhaps you can contribute some industry knowledge that has proven helpful in a similar circumstance.

The majority of people will appreciate your efforts, invitations, and kindness. At the same time, if you go into a meeting to help others, you’ll be less concerned about getting what you want and more likely to enjoy the experience of connecting.

Make sure that your request for guidance is specific, measurable, and time-bound:

Remember how many times you’ve asked for something and received a great yes — yes, the job is yours; yes, you can have a bigger budget. And how many times did you go into such conversations expecting to obtain a yes?  Before you got that favorable response, you probably expected to be rejected.

It’s difficult to ask for help. Just the thought of asking makes it simple to imagine a negative outcome. But what if you went into every meeting with the belief that you’d get that yes?

It’s easy to release tension by maintaining a positive mindset and staying true to your ambitions with a slight alteration in mentality.

Rhonesha Byng is the founder and CEO of Her Agenda, an award-winning digital media company highlighting successful millennial women. She noted that just a small percentage of Fortune 500 CEOs were female when she was only 15 years old. It also motivated her to pursue a career as a writer with a clear goal: to highlight accomplished professional women like Beyoncé’s publicist and make them as well-known as Beyoncé.

Byng took the risk and made her pitch right away, rather than waiting until she was an adult. She ignored her age, which could have led to her being fired quickly. “I want to share your tale,” she stated confidently. “Can I have 15 minutes of your time?” she asked. She was able to start her platform because o her bravery and boldness. Within a few years, she was named to Fortune’s list of the 30 Under 30.

Take Byng’s advice when asking someone in your network. Make sure your pitch is specific, measurable, and confined to a particular time range. Keep your requests and offers to five minutes or less, especially if you’re approaching someone with whom you’re starting a new connection. It’s also crucial to be explicit about what you want your partner to do and when it is done.

As a result, you can ask questions such as, “Could you please evaluate my CV by Tuesday?” or Could I please have five minutes of your time to discuss my elevator pitch with you? Inviting your contact to participate in whatever you’re asking for makes him feel more invested in your own goals and, consequently, more connected to you.

Ask the proper questions and listen carefully to allow the development of a genuine relationship:

What did it take to progress from that first meeting into building a lasting connection, looking back on the close ties you’ve made over the years? The answer isn’t always so straightforward. It’s not simply one deed that gives a relationship substance; it’s a series of tiny but significant acts throughout time.

The goal isn’t to become best friends with everyone in your business contacts. It’s worth looking for a deeper connection if you want your relations to have a significant impact on your job and life. A meaningful chat can help you turn a long-distance business transaction into a long-term friendship.

So, ignore the short conversation the first time you meet someone and be ready for a deeper connection.

It’s easier to talk about the weather or how their weekend went, but asking more profound questions might help you get the most out of your encounters. Consider the following questions: What was the most challenging element of the pandemic for you? Alternatively, what are your greatest life ambitions?

But asking questions isn’t enough; you also need to listen, which leads us to the Do stage.

Being a good listener allows you to pick up on clues and figure out how to assist the person. Julian Treasure, a sound and communications expert, suggests using the RASA approach to improve your listening skills: receive, appreciate, summarize, ask.

The receiving phase begins with keeping your body language open to demonstrate you’re paying attention: face the other person and give your complete attention to what they’re saying. Next, demonstrate your appreciation for what’s being said by nodding, making agreement sounds, and other movements that show you’re paying attention. And, because we all interpret discussions differently, double-check that you’re both on the same page by stating something like, “So, I get X.” Is that what you’re getting at? Finally, ask a question that demonstrates your undivided attention, such as, Oh? What’s up with that? Or, when did that happen?

Above all, pay attention to what the other person is thinking about, such as likes and dislikes. Recognizing what makes the other person tick is essential for providing a helpful answer. You can also jot down ideas on a notebook or your smartphone for later. They’ll be helpful when it’s time for the Do phase: following up.

Check up with your contacts and make them feel valued to maintain long-term ties:

Look no further than Lois Weisberg, Chicago’s cultural commissioner in the late 1990s, to see the Gather, Ask, Do technique in action. She was also hailed as a “super-connector” in 15 to 20 influential communities, including doctors, attorneys, bankers, artists, and politicians.

She was able to arrange economic and social projects that improved the city of Chicago as a result of her relationships. She died in 2016 at the age of 90, leaving a lifelong history of helping individuals in her city feel recognized. That is precisely what the final Do phase is about.

If you can recognize and appreciate another individual’s unique and beautiful characteristics, that person will be thankful to you long beyond the first meeting. It’s not just about complimenting someone; it’s also about following up with contacts to demonstrate that you care.

In fact, it’s best to follow up as soon as possible after your first meeting. When the link gets stale or an afterthought, don’t wait months to reconnect — less time is vital. As a result, send a note asap. During these early stages, social media is an excellent instrument for developing the connection further. All you have to do is write a simple message saying something like, “I enjoyed hearing about your efforts; please keep me updated.”

All across the span of your relationship, never stop following up. Keep in mind that the idea is to make the talks more in-depth over time. So, whether it’s giving information, sending cards, or arranging to meet for coffee occasionally, making modest gestures regularly goes a long way. It won’t appear as if you’re going out of your way to make these moves if the relationship is worth pursuing.

Because the Gather, Ask, Do technique is based on the premise that work and life don’t have to be divided when it comes to making deep connections. Instead, they meld into a complex web of meaningful connections that nurture you throughout your life while also benefiting the lives of others.