Generally when something comes up three times or more in a relatively short time, I pay attention. You know what I’m talking about. Three different people mention the same book. The same person pops up in conversation, in your thoughts, or even in a dream three or more times. Or an idea comes to you in three different forms. What does it mean? Time to take action, of course!
So when this topic came up at least three times in the last several weeks, I decided there was no better time to write about it here than right now. The question: “How can I use networking to make new friends / build or expand my social circle?”
Some answers and ideas:
- Start at the beginning. Go back to Chapters 1 and 2 in The Intentional Networker. The questions posed there are foundational to just about any search. Who are you? Who/ what are you seeking? If you don’t know these answers, it’s going to be a weird, haphazard, and frustrating quest.
- Get specific. What traits / characteristics do you enjoy most in peopls? If you’re not sure, think of people who are or have been in your life socially. What made them so endearing to you? So great to be around? Were they funny? Intelligent? Well-read? Adventurous? Active? Kind? Creative? Make a list – and keep adding to this list as you think of traits that you find positive and attractive.
- Plan your search. Where do you think you’d find these people? In what situations or places? For example, if you like to be around other readers, join a book club, volunteer to work at your local library, or spend more time browsing or hanging out in book stores. Like to stay fit? Join a gym, join a cycling club, train for an event with a group, or take a fitness class.
- Shift your mindset and show up. This one seems to obvious, but it’s where people often set themselves up for failure. Truth is, you won’t meet anyone if you don’t take action, take a few risks, and change your habits. Ditto if you’re always working, hanging out with the same two or three people you always hang out with, or spend your days or nights lounging about on the sofa watching reruns. Get out into the world. Shake up your usual routine. Get downright courageous!
- Strike up conversations. But how, you ask? This can be so terrifying! Start by arming yourself with some conversation-starting questions. To continue the bookstore example, you might ask a fellow reader/shelf-browser what he or she has read lately that’s good. Most book lovers enjoy sharing their latest favorites. You could also ask something like: Is this your favorite place to buy books? Or do you know of other good bookstores? You could also ask, “Do you ever use the public library? Which branch do you like best?”
- Be curious, but not nosy. Yes, the question thing can backfire if you are too aggressive, personal or invasive with your questions. Come up with some that are friendly and on the topic of interest – without moving into the creepy or weird zone.
- Introduce yourself. Once a little banter has taken hold, you might extend your hand (for a handshake) and say, “I’m Patti, by the way.” Usually people will respond in kind. From there you can keep the conversation going, if it feels good and the other person is willing.
- Don’t take rejection personally. Simply move on.
- Put the word out. Ask people you like and enjoy being around to introduce you to people they like and enjoy being around. Sometimes you have to let people know that you’re looking to add some new names and faces to your social circle. Usually, they will be generous and include you in more of their social events and/or introduce you to people they know. Be sure to be clear on the types of people who interest you most.
- Exude traits you wish to attract. Based on my own observations and studies done by others, some of the most attractive traits you can cultivate within yourself are: optimism, gratitude, a sense of fun and wonder, authenticity, and being a good listener. Another way to look at this is to go back to 2. above. The very traits you find most attractive are often (or should be) those which you demonstrate as well.
- Be patient, diligent, and consistent. Good friends don’t happen overnight. But if you know what you’re after, put the word out, and commit to taking at least one small action every day, it’s likely you will begin meeting people who you find interesting, attractive, and worth cultivating as friends.
What would you add to this list? How have you met people you enjoy and cultivated your favorite friendships?
Want some hands-on guidance on what sparks good conversations (and great relationships)? Join me in Austin, Texas on April 22 as I lead a workshop on “The Nature of Good Conversation: A workshop that will shift how you view human interaction forever.” Discover details and how to register here.