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Make Authentic Connections

As I was walking out of a coffee shop the other week I met a fellow who overheard some of what I was talking about with a life coach I had been meeting with at the time. He asked me if we could exchange phone numbers after a brief conversation and if we could get coffee at a later date. He seemed interesting, so we did.

Today I sit in Ferris, thinking about our meeting after he had left. It followed a similar format that another meeting with network marketing fellow I had met with previously followed. I thought, perhaps I should think through the communication principles at play and ask myself how I’m applying these rules in my relationships and meeting people.

Why is this important? Because I believe relationships are foundational and one of the most important things in life, and in order to form relationships with people I first must connect with them and introduce myself. I must earn their trust and learn to hear their stories.

Reflecting upon my time talking with my friend and a few communication principles I learned in school, I believe the process can be broken down into a few simple steps.

  1. Open Small. When meeting someone for the first time or spending time with them establishing that initial connection is about creating trust by showing them that you have things in common. To do this I will make comments on their appearance, simple things I can see, that I like or ask them questions about to get people talking about ‘things’ instead of themselves (starting off talking about the other person can come off too strong). The goal of any connection is to keep the conversation flowing – think about a pump that must be primed to get the water flowing, but if the water stops you need to prime it again. Keep things flowing smooth, build common ground, be interested, and take the time -don’t rush this (15-20 minutes). Ask questions you can build off of and start with obvious points that allow them to share more. Most importantly, questions that are open-ended.
    • “How did you get into biking?”
    • “What brought you to the area?”
    • “I like your watch/shirt/those are some cool shoes.”
    • “What do you like to do with your free time.”
  2. Tight Rope Transitions: after building an initial connection and moving through the outer circle of “interests” which are outside individuals, transition to asking questions that are focused more on the edge of the individual, safe/ common questions about family, work, what they enjoy doing in their personal time, their values, goals, what they like to read/do with their spare time. Ask specific questions with your goal in mind (ex: to form a connection with this person so that we can influence one another and both grow toward our plans and become successful in what we do). Use labels with emotions and interests to continue building the commonality while turning the focus inward.
    • “It seems like you and I are on the same page about the importance of leadership.”
    • “It sounds like mentorship is important to you, here’s how mentorship has been influential in my life.”
    • “Your goal to be able to have time to yourself to do what you love is similar to the reason I’m doing  this.”
  3. Book it: After working through the interpersonal region of the other we begin the process of getting to the meat and potatoes – explicitly discuss your goal with the other person now… but don’t fill in all the details, leave some uncertainty because they will want to clarify that in the future, it leaves a sort of social itch/creates interest and a reason to meet again in the future. In this region it’s important to use reciprocity to continue the sharing, just make sure to direct the conversation back to the person across from you… The goal of this point is to hear their story, values, interest, lifestyle, and who they want to be. This will help you have a strong close.
    • “It sounds like you really value relationships”
    • “I’m interested in learning about your story so that we can really connect”
    • “What lifestyle do you want to live?”

Finish strong. Now that you’re where you’re at and you come to the difficult part of the conversation where you ask for something in return for giving the other person what they need. Get the appointment or pitch your idea, focus on providing value for the other person. If you do not focus on providing value, you will likely fail to inspire the change/need within the other person that’s necessary to move forward. My friend sold me to take the next step by authentically connecting with me, he provided a book for me to read which will introduce/help me understand his goal. It serves the purpose of educating me while saving the time of him teaching me these concepts.