Take my 5-day FREE mini-course on Getting Present

Networking: The Art of Making Connections

Mosaic at Parc Guell

This article is also available in the following formats:

I facilitated a business networking course this week on making connections post-pandemic. It made me consider the nature of connecting, why we do it and what we get from it. If the purpose of networking is intentional relationship building, what stops us from doing it all the time? After all, we’re social animals hardwired to connect.

What networking is (and isn’t)

Networking is an exchange between people, not a one-way street. So often we get caught up in delivering our elevator pitch that we forget the reason we do it: to build social connections that we can use to facilitate our work.

Contrary to social media belief, networking is less about the number of connections than about the quality of them. Having 500 LinkedIn “connections” doesn’t matter if I know nothing about 498 of them. Quality means knowing more than “the stats”: name, job title, company, years of experience. It’s knowing something memorable about Jane so you can connect with her on that topic.

Why we do it

Dan Pink discusses the value of self-disclosure in The Power of Regret. Study participants received three choices: disclose beliefs about themselves, listen and judge the beliefs of others, or answer a trivia question. Despite various monetary inducements deliberately offered to nudge results in one direction versus another, 195 trials proved unequivocally that, when given these options, people chose Option 1. In other words, people love to talk about themselves!

Self-disclosure provides physical, behavioural, and neural benefits. For example, it decreases our blood pressure and improves our coping skills. I discovered that self-disclosure builds affinity not judgement. It makes us realise we’re all in this together, and we can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes. Don’t you find it helpful hearing someone describe a mistake and how they handled it? It’s like getting a roadmap that you can follow (or not) depending on your perspective of it.

What we get from it

Wooden Ladder

Connecting with others feels good. We step up the Emotional Guidance Scale. At the higher rungs of the ladder, we project a different energy to others, certainly a more positive one, that makes others want to be around us.

Neurologically, mirror neurons allow us to learn through imitation. When we feel good by connecting, our mirror neuros signal to the other person’s mirror neurons, creating a positive, virtuous cycle.

By intentionally building connections, we feel seen and heard. So, listen carefully, the way you’d like to be heard. Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” For more on listening, read my comments from this article on effective listening.

What stops us

Fear, plain and simple. We fear:

  • putting ourselves out there;
  • making ourselves a target;
  • feeling mocked;
  • being the centre of attention;
  • saying the wrong thing;
  • being vulnerable.

Surmount fear by remembering that we don’t need to eliminate it to move forward. We can choose differently. Choose courage, take a chance, get curious.

How to do it authentically

Authentic connection happens by asking questions, demonstrating interest, and expressing openness. No tricks or magic required here. Approach networking in this manner and you’ll see great results.

Header photo of mosaic at Parc Guell in Barcelona by Auriane Clément on UnsplashLadder photo by Xin on Unsplash, Women Chatting photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

 

You have to be open minded in order to grow. The coaching that Laura gave me opened my eyes to what and how I was doing things and allowed me to see the bigger picture. I am not done yet but I already see the changes in my everyday life.

MM

I think coaching is a great way to help you clear your mind when you get stuck with overwhelming situations or when stepping into changes in your life.

MO

Coaching is life changing. It pushes you outside your comfort zone and challenges your perspectives.  It is highly motivating and the exercises and techniques used are both fun and informative.  I think the main benefits of coaching are to see yourself, others and the world more clearly.  I think coaching is valuable to anyone regardless of where you are in your life or career.

LE

I honestly never thought I’d need a coach. I thought coaching was for CEOs and industry VIPs. I didn’t think it was for the “little guys” (i.e. me). Now, I’m of the belief that everyone – yes, EVERYONE – needs a coach. Coaching has really benefitted me and I’m so grateful to have had that time with Laura. It’s changed my life!

VB

Laura is very patient. She took the time to understand what was causing me to be stuck where I am today and help me build a better vision so I can continue to grow.

MM

I think Laura’s coaching was what I had been waiting for. Laura was so approachable, kind, and open. Her willingness to help and support made a difference for me. I found in her coaching new strategies, ideas, and perspectives that I could incorporate into my goals and objectives that I didn’t see before.

MO

Laura is an incredibly intuitive, positive and caring coach. Her techniques helped me recognize both my strengths and areas I might want to explore as I embark on the next chapter of my career. The exercises she employed were instrumental in providing self perspective and challenging my frames of reference.

LE

Laura is a natural coach. Her probing and compassionate questions helped me learn about myself: my value system, interests, goals and strengths.

LM

Coaching sessions with Laura gave me new perspectives on how to process specific feelings and situations in life.  She showed me how to sit with my emotions, acknowledge them, and then use visualization strategies to move through them.  I now feel more confident and in control of how I choose to walk through life.

CP

From the beginning, Laura put me at ease, creating a safe, open space for me to talk and share freely without fear of judgement. I loved the variety of approaches she used depending on the topic we were working on and it was fun being able to try out things I wouldn’t have considered before! With Laura’s coaching, I substantially grew my confidence in the workplace, overcame fears, dealt with issues I’d been carrying around for many years and, most importantly, learned to value myself and define a path forward into the future.

AG

Laura’s coaching was a breath of fresh air and EXACTLY what I needed at that point of my life. I didn’t realize how impactful coaching was going to be, but by the end of the sessions together, I left feeling refreshed, inspired and genuinely curious about what my future held for me. Because of Laura and her coaching, I believe I became a better person – someone who is more open-minded, someone with a clearer focus, and someone who is willing to explore opportunities and possibilities far more than I ever did before.

VB

I engaged Laura for coaching as I took on an expanded role leading an asset management company in Canada. As a female, I knew I would be a role model and had high expectations of myself. I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

In our first few coaching sessions we worked through exercises that allowed me to reflect on my purpose, leadership style and what mattered most to me. I continue to be grounded by the clarity I achieve in my coaching sessions – allowing me to be resilient and confident when challenges came my way.

OS