I’ve been to a few networking events in the past and I’ve always cringed as the inevitable question, “what do you do?” is asked. I don’t avoid the question because I don’t want to tell people how I make a living. More so because the phrase is too often used as a way to define and dissect an entire person’s being in a matter of minutes.
Most of the time, what is really being asked is “How can you help me?” And this is not how we should be relating to our fellow humans here. We should be genuinely interested in people just to know more about how they think and therefore how we think ourselves!
Whilst I’m always interested in hearing about someone’s dreams and what they love doing, I never ask what their job is unless they want to offer that information. I’m more interested in what they do when they’re not in their job- where they spend their time, what they like to read, films they like…this is the person I want to know.
Organic connections are so much more solid and real. Obviously if you attend a Networking event and really do get on with someone, that’s fantastic and I’m sure many great friendships and working relationships have begun from these types of groups.
One great way to make real connections is to get involved in your community. This could be volunteering for a local charity, joining a befriending service or simply getting to know your neighbours. Once you connect with your surrounding world, you feel more grounded and part of something. You truly never know who you may meet and by good fortune they may be able to enhance your other goals in life, and in return you may help theirs.
This is the way to gain true meaning in our acquaintances, not through artificial means. Just because successful business people achieved money and recognition this way through cliquey clubs, doesn’t mean that should be the model to aspire to. We need to change that system and start making friends just to make friends, and if our intentions are good then I’m sure the rest will follow.
Choose a community project that is close to your heart. Don’t go with what is a popular trend or fashionable. This happens when the media picks up on certain causes and illnesses and suddenly they become popular, which is great for raising awareness but can mean that smaller projects are left unrecognised.
To recap, here are a few ways to become more connected with others.
- Join a local group for fun. Choose what your most drawn to, this will often be something you enjoyed in your childhood. Find a local choir, netball team or reading club.
- Get to know your neighbours. City living doesn’t create a community feel unless we get to know the people who live alongside us, at least to say hello to in passing. If you live somewhere with a communal space, why not have a Barbecue in the summer or organise a street clean up if needed with tea and cake after.
- Get involved. Give your time to a charity rather than writing a cheque and forgetting about it afterwards.
- Call your friends and family more often. Better still, go to see them in person more frequently. We are more disbursed these days, but making the effort to visit someone will brighten up both your lives.
Don’t just network, connect, make genuine soul connections.