Connecting Without Expecting: The Art of Keeping It Real
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Have you noticed that people don’t seem to pick up their phones anymore? And how they turn off all the lights and draw the shades when you roll up to their house? Seriously, Grandma?? I know you’re home!
If this sounds familiar, we need to talk. Assuming you’re showering regularly, the reason behind your friends/family/neighbors ghosting you might just be that you’ve made a habit of contacting them only when you need to borrow money/unload your newborn triplets for the night/get out of jail. And if you’re doing this in your personal life, odds are you’re sending business contacts running for the hills, too.
Maybe you think you’re just being efficient, trying not to bother the busy people in your life with unnecessary chatter. But the trouble is, we humans are a social bunch with a common need to connect and feel like we matter. And when someone reaches out only when they want something, it makes us feel a lot of things — manipulated, taken advantage of, annoyed — but certainly not like we matter.
Think of it as the difference between Taylor Swift and your cousin with the crippling pyramid scheme addiction. Say what you will about Taylor Swift, but she has masterfully created an incredibly loyal fanbase - and not just by donning sparkly outfits and writing catchy tunes.
Taylor engages meaningfully with her public all the time — she shares intimate portraits of her cats, responds to your adoring comments about said cats, maybe shows up at your wedding — even when she knows you’ve already bought her album! Before long you find yourself first in line to purchase whatever she’s selling (and totally prepared to claw the eyes out of anyone who dares to utter a single disparaging word about her).
Meanwhile, cousin Scamela contacts you every six months to offer you a different “business opportunity” … for only $199 to start … practically guaranteed to make you a billionaire by next week! In the interim, she disappears from your life. No phone calls, no texts, no comments on your amazing photos from the Taylor Swift concert. Crickets. Until, like clockwork, she’s back and suddenly very interested in how you’re doing and by-the-by has she mentioned the life-changing opportunity she has for you? I’m guessing you aren’t buying (or doing any clawing on her behalf).
You can see how taking the time to cultivate relationships both personally and professionally can pay off in terms of being able to call in a favor or make a sale down the road, but the benefits don’t end there. When you make a regular effort to genuinely connect with people, those connections positively impact your health and wellbeing too. You enrich your own life while simultaneously improving the lives of everyone around you — all the while fostering that beautiful goodwill so when a need does arise, your people are more than happy to show up for you. Everyone wins!
So make the most of this season of gratitude and togetherness — reach out and nurture those relationships. You might find yourself with a little bit extra to be thankful for this year.
Ready to take a page from T-Swift’s playbook? Start here:
1. Be aware of your intentions. Be honest with yourself. Are you only engaging with this person because they have that awesome beach house? Redirect your attention to relationships that you’d find fulfilling sans fancy perks.
2. Keep it simple. You needn’t go around forcing an awkward hour of uninterrupted eye contact on everyone you know every day. A quick text/call/note just to say hi goes a long way.
3. Listen as much as you talk. Ask questions and actively listen to the answers.
4. Remember to follow up. Your calendar is your friend. After a conversation, take a second to note any key dates that were mentioned so you can easily remember to congratulate someone when they close on their new house or check in with them after their dog’s surgery.
Start spreading those warm fuzzies and before you know it, Grandma will be calling you.
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