Making It Personal

In this age of social networking that reduces much interpersonal communication to the news feeds from various social websites, people tend to forget the value of making it personal through real face-to-face networking.  Nothing replaces looking someone in the eye, sharing a handshake and a smile.  Have we become too content with mere electronic representations of relationships?  There is little that comes close to the power of establishing a real interpersonal connection.  But sadly our use, and, in many cases dependency of, online social networking, has dulled our skills when it comes to establishing meaningful in-person interpersonal relationships.
Even if you’re out and about all the time, making contact with strangers to make real connections and build relationships (professional or personal) isn’t always easy.  To begin with, talking with strangers is easier for some than others.  If you’re not comfortable meeting new people, making connections becomes hard work, but it is still something worth pursuing.  And not all of our surroundings are conducive to openly making new acquaintances. Meeting new people and getting to know them a little can open us up to new ideas, perspectives, opportunities, and friendships; it can stimulate creativity, as well as professional and/or personal growth; and it can foster new beginnings.
After meeting someone, then what?  Will you follow up?  Will this new connection remain predominantly a stranger who you are minimally acquainted with, or will a deeper functioning relationship be established?  If, for whatever reason, you want to build a relationship with that new person, don’t wait for them to make contact with you.  Be assertive and communicate your interest in building on that introduction.
If you only make contact with one individual, your chances of recalling important information about who they are and what they do is a bit easier than if there have been several introductions at one time or at the same event.  And retaining introductory information can be difficult for many people.  For those who find it hard to remember names and faces, and for the shy and introverted, I heartily encourage finding a way to improve your networking skills using tools available in books found at your local library or through websites and online forums.  The ability to meet new people, retain names and associate them with faces conveys a sense of real connection with the other person.  Recalling another’s name is polite, it’s flattering; it demonstrates respect, and the perception of interest in the other person and what they do.
The ability to make another person feel like they are remembered, welcome and respected is an important trait. This is especially handy when you run into someone in an unexpected situation that is out of context from where you might usually see this person.  For example, bumping into a sales rep you know from work at a concert or non-work related social event, or the supermarket.  Your recognition might make another feel better about themselves.
Certainly there will be times when you can’t recall the name of someone you run into, or hear from online.  But when face-to-face, I believe it is important to admit your shortcoming, and ask the person to remind you of their name. Asking now can save you the embarrassment when someone else in the room asks for, or expects an introduction to the person whose name you can’t recall.  If you’re contacted online by an old acquaintance whose name doesn’t ring any bells, at least you can do some quick research about them using the usual online tools, and hopefully there will be some triggers to help resurrect your associations to them.
Unfortunately, too many people can’t be bothered to introduce one person to another!  Yes it is harder, perhaps even a bit awkward if you don’t know everyone you’re speaking with by name.  But one of the most courteous and respectful things you can do in any live professional or personal social situation is to make an introduction.  In doing so you are demonstrating respect, appreciation, a sense of welcome and more for others in the group, and particularly for the person being introduced. Introductions breed good will, interest in others, the deepening of existing connections and the broadening of each participant’s sphere of connections.  The depth of any new connections that may be established is not necessarily the responsibility of the one who makes the introductions.  And there is nothing wrong with being flattering or complimentary in the course of making introductions.  Just don’t “over-hype” the other person.
So, go ahead, be assertive.  Put out your hand and introduce yourself to someone new. Be polite and courteous, and by making it personal, you are conveying an interest in that other person. And in the process you make the world a better place!
For more ideas on maximizing your networking efforts, job search and other career development topics, please search this blog and visit: or contact me.