7 cures for the common connector

July 30 2013

community

Everyone is a connector.

You may think you’re not, but you are. We’re all members of tribes, we join groups we’re interested in, we gravitate towards people who are familiar. We’re social creatures.

Just because “Connector” isn’t listed on your resume doesn’t mean you’re lacking these skills. I see connectors in teachers, school counselors, grocery store clerks, fitness leaders, sales executives, jewelry designers, nurses, customer service representatives. Pause for a moment to think of the individuals you connect and have connected in your world. Probably more than you realize.

That’s not to say it’s always easy. Speaking with other connectors, folks whose livelihoods depend on introductions and relationships, I’ve identified struggles most every connector has experienced (myself included).

Whether you identify as a connector, hope to become more of one, or are just looking to get out of your shell, I hope these cures help you become more effective within your social circles.

Cure #1: What’s business, what’s personal, and where to draw the line.

I’ve heard many different views on this. Two extremes: transparent authenticity (revealing everything to everyone with little-to-no filter) and establishing a crisp line between business and personal matters (removing all personal details from professional transactions).

With my own clinical training, I come from a background separating personal details from professional work. I’ve had to recalibrate in order to feel more comfortable sharing personal details in professional settings; however, I do think it is important to establish a difference between “private” and “personal,” and I have seen the value of honest professionalism. Finding the line that works for you makes your style your art.

Cure #2: Not having enough time to give everyone the attention they deserve.

Concentrate on thoughtfulness over quantity. It is impossible to be everything to everybody. Simply trying will frustrate and hinder your relationships with others. Instead, focus on what you can do and identify the boundaries that feel empowering to you.

Clearly explain what you are capable of providing and commit to giving that your all. By setting expectations with those in your networks, you’ll minimize potential for disappointment and confusion. You want mutual understanding and respect to provide the foundation for your relationships, not mixed signals.

Cure #3: You feel insecure — anything but confident — and you’re afraid to let it show.

It’s OK. I’m a big fan of showing up and expressing your humanity. Your “realness” is what makes you you.

Those moments of weakness and vulnerability open doors to connect with others on a deeper level. Yes, there’s a balance between over-sharing and approachability, and it’s different for everyone (see Cure #1). Again, draw your line and confidently own it.

Cure #4: Exhaustion. Endless parties, socializing, conferences, dinner dates, coffee hours, meetings, calls…

You must, must create time to feed your soul. You cannot be effective if you are tired and rundown. Schedule hours on your calendar to be alone. Literally. Block hours throughout your week and invite yourself to time away from emails, gadgets, devices, and obligations. Do things that refuel and energize you: go to yoga, walk outside, write with no specific goal. I like to think you are able to best give to others when your own glass is full.

Cure #5: Remembering names.

This is a biggie and one I struggle with. I’m a visual learner who retains information by doing, so hearing a name once does nothing for me. I’ve found the following to be helpful:

  • Relax during introductions. Stop stressing and focus on the conversation at hand.
  • Admire interesting details. This will help you be present and in the moment.
  • Link story to name. You can also try pairing someone’s first name with an object in the room (Brooklyn-made table Tim, champagne flute Chelsea, spicy Doritos Sarah, Malbec Marvin).
  • Visualize writing the person’s name in a chunky font.

Cure #6: Introductions you don’t quite understand.

People mean well. When you’re seen as someone who connects others, you’re going to receive many, many, many introductions. Sometimes they don’t always make sense — especially in moments of high work volume and pressing deadlines. Graciously thank the person for the introduction and kindly ask them to check in with you before making future recommendations. It’s helpful to have a specific need to relay so the right person can be connected to you. Explicit details are much easier to recall than generic requests (See Cure #5).

Cure #7: Lack of true connection; loneliness.

Some of the most well-connected people are also the most lonely. Having a thick Rolodex means less time with specific individuals, so it’s up to you to parcel your energy with concentrated effort.

Prioritize your personal relationships, show appreciation for your loved ones, and cherish childhood friendships. When you’re with someone, be with them. Turn off the phone and bask in those moments in which your full attention is directed to the conversation at hand. Be willing to expose yourself through open communication, honesty, and fears and faults. You’ll feel closer, more connected, and more giving to those in your communities.

Improving the lives of others often means connecting one resource to another. It might be introducing your neighbor to your plumber, connecting a client needing financial advise, passing along a job listing, exchanging numbers for friends falling in love. We’re filling an ask or searching for the right person to provide the best answer. Our worlds become that much more rich when we add value, and connecting two individuals is an easy way to do that.

For additional discussion on this topic, check out:

Lane’s post on The Curse of the Connector. Sherry’s TED talk “Connected, but alone?” and her NY Times Op-Ed The Flight from Conversation. Robert Kaplan on building strong relationships with principles from his book What You’re Really Meant To Do. Send me a tweet or write me a note with your thoughts.