Last Tuesday, I went to my first networking event that wasn’t company sponsored. It was for INROADS, an organization that promotes diversity and connects underserved youth with employers looking for top notch talent. I’m not and wasn’t affiliated with the organization at all, and it was a second annual ALUMNI event, so needless to say, I felt so out of place. How can I build long lasting relationships when I feel so scared to talk to anyone?! I managed to build up the courage to talk to 3 individuals there and in the few minutes of talking to them, they made all the difference in the world in my life. Here is how.
First, I want to point out that I felt so out of place. I was the only Asian in a room full of African Americans. It made me feel like an outsider in a room full of people who knew each other so well.
I didn’t seem to have anything in common with any of them, but I was able to pick off a few people who were alone that I felt comfortable approaching and striking up a conversation. These conversations made all the difference in my life in how I view my relationships with friends.
The First Conversation
I don’t want to give away identities of the people I talked to so let’s call the first person I talked to Sandro.
Sandro was instantly likable. He was going through a Ph.D program and at the age of 31 and I figured he had a tip or two about careers. I asked him if he had any advice for someone who’s barely starting out in the corporate world.
He started talking about how I shouldn’t expect any apologies from my boss and to build long lasting relationships if I am able to. Then he went on to say that one of his closest friends was a Vice President from a $100B company. What?! I asked him how he met him.
It was during school, the VP was walking and Sandro walked up to him in t-shirt and shorts saying “hey, my name is Sandro, I really just wanted to meet you and introduce myself” and the conversation just flowed from there.
It didn’t end there. He put in a lot of effort to connect with him, asking advice on how to make his resume stand out, asking anything about industry trends with the VP’s current company, and much more.
The relationship escalated to the point where the VP threw a party in his 20k sq. ft mansion for Sandro’s mom.
How to Build Long Lasting Relationships
I got chills just hearing this story. Here was an average guy who GENUINELY wanted to connect with someone and made it happen. I definitely dropped the ball on keeping up with my connections. I frantically changed my ways this past weekend and sent emails to people that I wanted to reconnect with. Through my conversation with Sandro, here are some things that I found that are KEY to building long lasting relationships.
Know the Why
This resonates the most with me. At my college, we were pushed to network, how it was an act that can’t be ignored. It was almost like “if we don’t network, we won’t get a job.”
It’s some of the most terrible advice that I ever received. I understand networking is important when building a career or just in general life, but it gave me the impression that I should view people as someone who can help me, not someone who I want to get to know.
I killed many important relationships as a result. I thought that I should only network to get something out of the person. This is a terrible way to think. The terrible conversations I’ve had with full time professionals show this.
However, I’m glad that I recognized this. Now, the reason why I network is because I want to get to know the other person, not because I want something. It made all the difference in the world with how I interact with my friends and others.
Listen More than You Talk
Would I have been able to know Sandro’s story if I spent more time talking rather than listening and asking questions? No.
I want to say that I LOVE listening. In a given conversation, I want to learn more about the other person so I ask countless questions about themselves and listen.
If I talk more than I listen, then I’m repeating what I already know instead of learning something new. Therefore, I will probably spend 70% of the time listening and 30% of the time talking when I meet someone for the first time or in my conversations with my friends.
Details are Small Things That Have a Gigantic Impact
Sandro said that he knows everything and anything about his bosses. He knows when her birthday is, what food she likes, what format she wants the document to be in, how early she gets into the office, etc.
Then I thought back to my life. I love it and appreciate it when someone remembered my birthday. I appreciated it when they knew what my past work involved and who I worked for.
People love details, that someone is paying attention to them and it makes them feel important. I started to care more about the details in people and wrote down important things about the person.
Add Value, Never Receive More than Give
This one applies to everywhere, not just in building long lasting relationships. Doing something for another person all the while expecting ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in return is noble. Not just noble, something that is respected and appreciated. I used to hate doing something for someone before meeting Sandro.
Why? If I didn’t get something back, I felt like an idiot putting in so much effort for someone who didn’t even care. Then I began to realize that this is the wrong way to think. It isn’t that they don’t care, it’s that maybe they are busy but still appreciate the gesture. I was making an assumption based on what I saw, not what I didn’t see.
Now, I look for ways to add value to the people who are in my life. If I did something that benefitted me, I now think who else in my life could also make use out of it.
Put in the Effort
I’ve definitely missed the mark on this. I have a list of people in Excel (I can’t keep track of people just in my brain) that I need and want to keep in contact with. I have their name, how I met them, and a few details about themselves (for example, when their birthday is).
Then if the conversation turned out to be great and I liked the person, they will get a phone call from me on their birthday, or other important days.
However, I realized that I need to put in more effort. I usually try to email them once a quarter, but I realized now that that’s too little. Sandro told me to email people once a month or once every two months at a minimum. Otherwise, since they go through meeting so many people, they could easily forget me.
I will be doing exactly that starting today.
Having long lasting relationships is hard work. Effort needs to be there, otherwise it can’t happen. Long lasting relationships can help with careers and being more fulfilled in life. However, the end goal isn’t to build a career or be more fulfilled in life. The end goal is to actually connect with the individual across from you and get to know him or her.
I want to point out that it took me numerous hours to be better at building relationships. I took a class, I read books, I consciously made an effort to talk to strangers in my classes. I used to be scared out of my mind to talk to a stranger but I’m slowly getting accustomed to do so.
Now I’m significantly better at building relationships (though not the best at it). Hopefully you don’t make the same mistakes I did and we can all have better relationships with everybody close to us!
Readers, do you agree with my tips on having a long lasting relationships? Are there other things that you recommend? Let me know in the comments below!
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