Whether you know it or not, you were born with the natural ability to meet people and build relationships. Even if you don’t spend much time proactively building relationships, you should be able to point to numerous examples of relationship building with friends and co-workers.
While we are all born with the ability to connect, some of us utilize this skill more than others. If you haven’t utilized your inherent relationship-building skills yet, then it’s time to unleash them onto the world.
Don’t Be a Hermit
As long as you aren’t a hermit, you interact with people every day such as with the bus driver, a person at the cleaners, a clerk at the local convenience store, clients and co-workers. However, you may not have a solid business network to draw upon.
This is OK because it’s never too late to start. Chances are you probably have more people in your network than you think you do. Most of us naturally have built up a network that has been largely untapped.
Take a trip down memory lane and think about the relationships you have built with friends and co-workers. What did you do to develop these relationships?
Many of these relationships have been built because of commonalities such as living in the same neighborhood, going to the same school, working at the same company or playing the same sports. For many people, building relationships starts by identifying these common elements and building upon them.
Having something in common with another person provides a great foundation. Remember that relationships are built with people who make us feel comfortable. Spend time surrounding yourself with these types of people. This is a great way to begin to grow your network.
Focus on Commonalities
In addition to surrounding yourself with people who make you feel comfortable, you should also look for individuals sharing commonalities. Attend networking events that are focused in your industry, hang out with friends of friends and interact with fellow alumni.
Whatever you decide to do, keep an open mind and focus on converting some of these encounters into new relationships. Nurture these new relationships so they can become part of your network.
At the same time, you need to have the confidence that you can meet people and build some solid relationships. You have done it before and continue to do it with new friends and co-workers. The more you interact with people, the more confident you will become.
Consider every time you talk with someone as practice for the next conversation. If you aren’t comfortable attending a large event, then practice at a small gathering in your community, at your company or at a family gathering.
Seek to be friends first with any new contacts and then talk business later. You want to build comfort and trust so when business does come up it is a smooth transition.
The reason you want to build relationships this way is because people tend to do business with others who they consider friends. It is important to always connect with people on a deeper level that goes well beyond just business.
Practice Talking to Strangers
If you still aren’t comfortable carrying on a conversation with new people in a business environment, then practice talking to people when you go to the store, work out at the gym, take a taxi or stay at a hotel. This activity will get you more comfortable with talking to complete strangers in all situations.
As you are already naturally having these conversations every day, you need to now be aware that they are happening and strengthening your relationship-building skills. Take this as an opportunity to practice conversational skills.
Don’t ever discount any of these discussions because they could develop into good relationships. Take these encounters seriously because relationships are built in every situation. Techniques to practice include reciting your elevator pitch, asking insightful questions and listening.
It’s better to hone your conversational skills in a non-business environment. The old saying that “practice makes perfect” is so true for relationship building. Talking is a born ability. Leverage it to help you become more successful in business and life.
You have a voice and you need to exercise it. Professional athletes and musicians need to constantly practice before they can perform at the big game or a performance.
Keep in mind that people attend networking events to meet other people. Don’t ever feel embarrassed to go up to someone and start a conversation. Chances are this person feels uncomfortable and he or she will be thankful that you started the dialogue.
Remember that we are all born with the skill to build relationships. Don’t let this natural ability go to waste.