Your Social Spaces, Nourish Them

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Connections are everywhere, you just have to explore them. (Image: Shawn Ward)  

Your connections can provide you with community and keep you close to developments that need your help. Where we often fail them is we don’t appreciate them until we need them. By appreciating them I mean nourishing them to grow at the speed you’d like to grow.

If nothing else, technology has given us a great means of connecting with one another more than ever over longer distances. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, to name a few make it super easy to connect in professional circles or leisure circles around the globe. Networking at its core is about establishing relationships and helping people. We need to be interested in the people we’re trying to connect with, not just want to connect because they serve a purpose to us. Offering ourselves to others first, before trying to take something first, benefits both parties and increases your opportunity to impact altruistically.

Building a community with others can be life changing if you let it. Our lives could change constantly, but the relationships we foster or build endure over time. It comes easy to me because at a young age, I had to establish a community of connections in order to survive growing up mostly on my own. There was going to be a day for me growing up on my own that I needed someone because most of the time family was not within my reach. Networking for me was life changing. Now, today it comes easy and just something I don’t think to do. I just do it. By flexing your muscles and getting through the uneasiness of it, practicing, I promise it will become easier to do.

Giving yourself some purpose and intentionality around networking can make it easier. Where do you see yourself professionally and personally in say three to four months? What kind of relationships or social help will you need to achieve that goal? Who do you know that is a subject matter expert in the field you’re trying to learn more or become a master yourself in? These are great pre-work questions to ask yourself to get you started. They help you really align to your goals. Prioritize the connections to match the milestones you should be hitting along the way. These connections will also be great people to hold you accountable. A list to get you started might look like this:

  • People in your community that you already know
  • People you want to get to know in your community
  • Companies you may want to know about
  • Connections that are “non-negotiables” in order for you to succeed

Focus on the end goal. Give yourself purpose with your connections.

Once you’ve picked out the people that interest you or have a common focus, how we connect with them is an art by itself. I find and have read story telling is an amazing way to start. Briefly outlining your work in email or online social networks is a great way to share your story and gain some interests. In person, bringing your work/life experience as a story without any fear can be a great way to do this. Mentioning things like conflicts you had, helpful connections that got you through, and allowing the other person to jump in wherever they want are great ways to let storytelling strengthen the connection. Creating a peak in your story where you overcame a struggle or two is nice to share as well. Sharing how you grew from that can be very attractive to another connection. Remember, they’re trying to make connections just like you.

First impressions have always been important to me. The best way I’ve found to make a great first impression was by being a great listener. Socially connecting does require you to talk, but don’t overdue it. I use the 80/20 method. Old and true, some best practices are timeless. When I listen 80% of the time and talk only 20% I get a lot from my connections. I get what’s important to them and how I can help with that best practice. I listen critically. These connections are my portfolio essentially, and will help me stand out or find more people to connect with. If I blast them with all I have to say and talk to much, I can lose them or come off as a know it all. It just like a bad customer experience. You blow a connection, they’re going to tell at least 10 other people in their circle how awful it was. There goes more possibilities for you to broaden  your circles.

I find networking gives me a certain push to move outside of my comfort zones as well. It can be risky. I could make the wrong connection. By taking the risk in creating a new connection I’ve not had before, I’m pushing myself. Doing that opens up my self-awareness and I begin to see opportunities that I had not before. Networking doesn’t auto-magically happen, it takes work. This blog as an example took two years to build. As I’ve collected followers over the past two years, I’ve been able to add to their work and have learned from them. I’ve even earned their blessing/trust to meet other connections in their circles. Learning from them has made me a better writer and manager of this space for IBtP.

As I stated above, networking and feeding your social spaces requires working and refusing to not give up. It’s a life long commitment whether in work circles or neighborhood circles. When you think about learning a new language, you don’t learn passively, it takes action to get there. One of the best ways to practice building new muscle is to reach out with questions you have to your current base. This will help you master the language of engagement. It creates a personal connection with your network. Perseverance is key. My first year was horrible as far as success in views or readers. I almost gave up. If I looked at that as the measuring stick, I would have quit. But, I found a different measuring stick in my connections. I knew success would take time as I learned from established masters. Like cultivating a garden, it would be disappointing to expect instant success. Be a lifelong student of your social circles.

In our ever changing spaces nourishing your social circles by having a plan on why you want to connect, understanding how by contributing correctly, taking risks by finding new ones, and pushing yourself to grow them will help you achieve all kinds of things. Next time you do work on socializing, take a mental note on what makes you feel great and what makes the person you’re connecting with feel great. Make that time together memorable. You will find a very rewarding life in that work.

Thanks for reading and viewing. Hope that summer is going well!

✌ Shawn

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