If a tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?
If a worker does an amazing piece of work, but sits in a siloed team where nobody talks to each other, did they really do an amazing piece of work?
Since the world has opened up post-pandemic, I’ve been a lot more intentional in reaching out to others. Rather than seeing friendships and connections as a by-product of the rest of my life, I’ve looked at is as something that needs love and attention to foster. I’ve become a lot more conscious about what I’ve been doing, particularly as I’ve been reading the book ‘Never Eat Alone’ by Keith Ferrazzi, which I’d certainly recommend.
I’ve been making more of an effort to go out and speak to people. Sometimes these are people I’ve never met before – attending events or starting new hobbies and striking up conversations (sites like Meetup are great for this). But more often it’s been about connecting with people I’ve known for a long time but haven’t spoken to. Dropping a message on the fly or arranging a coffee chat or call. It doesn’t need to be anything particularly complicated. I’m off to London this weekend and have arranged quite a few meet-ups with different people. (which by teh way if you happen to be around I’d be happy to meet up – though my diary is a little tight at the moment!)
I do understand it’s quite easy to fall into the trap of becoming passive in relationships. After all, it’s what I was doing. Having gone to university, ways to meet people were practically served to me on a plate – university societies, house parties and a range of different classes each term. Going out to the ‘real world’ though, there are far less prompts to connect with others without making an extra effort.
So I assumed I would passively meet people and connect with them over time. However, fast forward a few years, I found myself being in a cycle of connecting with people once every few months and being late replying to texts to anyone I knew. Once I’d hit a rough patch, I’d then want to speak to someone to have a moan, only to then go into a cycle of panic that I didn’t have friends, not realising that I’d put little effort in keeping the relationship alive. I didn’t necessarily stop to think that having a friendship with someone who doesn’t reply and only comes when things are going badly is probably not the most friendship to have.
When we often need something, like help with a job application or career advice, one of the most crucial sources of wisdom is our network. We may know someone who can help us with whatever it is we need, and be kind enough to give some time to impart key advice.
Yet often what we do is wait until we need something before we reach out to people. How many of us have experienced the feeling that people only contact us because they want something? Well inadvertently that’s what we might be doing ourselves.
It’s only in recent times that I’ve realised the importance of going out in the world to cultivate relationships, which in turn creates a stronger network around me. I realised that nobody was waiting for me, nor was anyone going to suddenly recognise my brilliance and shoot me into some sort of stardom where people were crawling at my feet to speak to me.
In the book, Keith Ferrazzi highlights the importance of building healthy, authentic relationships without necessarily ‘needing’ something from the other person. Maybe one day they might be able to help you, but that’s not the outright goal. Likewise, maybe you can help them. Everyone benefits.
And aside from all the corporate speak about networking (business development targets, career success or social media vanity metrics), connecting with people can be extremely fun. I find it enriching to learn from other people about what they do, and it expands my horizons about the possibilities in the world. It’s why travel can be so great – to see and hear how other people do things differently to us. But the people next door can also have incredibly interesting stories, or just be very nice people to spend time with.
So if you want to be happier and more successful – whatever your definition of success might be – it would likely pay to cultivate stronger relationships with people. In our modern age, we have the choice of whether we want to connect virtually, physically or a mixture of both – what a blessing!
If you’d like to take an action, look at how you might be able to speak with someone new this week. Also think about dropping a message to one or two people you’ve not talked to recently and restart the conversation. You may find it’s rather nice to speak!
In fact, if you’re looking for a first step to start a conversation with someone, just drop me a message about how you found this article. I’d love to hear from you.