Update from the author: we’ve updated the information, and details about forming stronger connections with your contacts to be current for 2023.
Whether you’re starting a new enterprise or looking for clients, employees, or jobs, a strong network of contacts from a range of backgrounds is the most effective way of moving forward. Your contacts provide the network of resources you need to succeed in any branch of life, and the quality of these contacts determines how efficiently you move along that branch.
Nurturing contacts into deep, meaningful relationships is how you improve the power of your network, and with the right approach, you can transform useful connections into lifelong friends and close acquaintances, who will be happy to promote and support you in whichever direction you are taking.
So how do you do this? It’s all a matter of understanding the personal connection definition, what makes a connection, and your role in a reciprocal relationship.
What is a Personal Connection?
Whether we realize it or not, personal connections are at the foundation of every human accomplishment. They’re the bond that signifies a two-way relationship and inspires a collaborative attitude between individuals.
Fundamentally, a personal connection is an authentic bond between one person and anything that makes them feel valued. This can be a piece of art that ‘speaks’ to the audience, or a lyric in a song that deeply resonates with them.
In social terms, however, it’s a connection between this person and one or more other people, that transcends utility and fulfills a social need to be seen and understood.
This mutually respectful link plays important role in both our emotional and practical lives. Personal connections foster a sense of belonging, which promotes trust and inspires altruistic or reciprocal behaviors from all parties.
These behaviors in turn help support each person involved and deepen that atmosphere of openness and trust, in which individuals can revel in the safety and emotional fulfillment that they innately desire.
So, forming a personal connection is ultimately a matter of forming trust that comes from our base drives as social animals, and providing the nurturing or healing effects that stem from these connections allow us many advantages in life.
Psychology has long understood the destructive force of loneliness, and the huge power that personal, deep connections have on human mental health.
However, the detriment of a lack of these connections is not limited to emotions; they’re also critical for any level of success in life, and knowing how to leverage them to maximize your chances of success is key to accomplishing your goals.
Why do you Need Personal Connections?
As a direct progression from the obvious psychological benefit to well-being that these bonds provide, personal, meaningful connections help us move forward in our professional lives too. We’ve all seen it in politics: people vote for a personality much more often than they vote for a policy.
While this may be a dangerous path politically, the same principle can be leveraged in your business leadership or client exchanges. In either, what it comes down to is trust. Trust is paramount to the success of the interactions.
Nothing is more inspiring of trust than authenticity. Clients will always trust a friendly individual over a faceless corporation, and staff will work significantly harder for someone they consider a friend than for a boss or manager who never shows their face. In terms of competition, trust will always win out over pushy demands.
Tyrannical, oppressive workspaces only inspire people to do the bare minimum to keep their jobs, and from the consumer perspective, a pushy salesman is a red flag that suggests a bad deal. Conversely, when people feel noticed, they feel respected, and in turn, they are much more inclined to spend the extra effort making their connection happy.
Therefore, it’s clear that fostering genuine, mutually-beneficial relationships with people from all aspects of your life is the most organic, rewarding, and reliable way to boost your success.
Success in life is not a zero-sum game – it’s not necessary to push others down in order to rise to the top. Instead, understanding the nature and power of collaboration will help you build long-lasting networks that will guide you through both your professional and personal life.
Recent developments in work-from-home schemes have both isolated people and shown them better use of their time. This means that companies are now competing to create healthier working environments for their workers, and employees are also more in need of personal connection than ever.
So, it’s clear that deeper connections are in high demand, but how do we foster them? We’ve compiled ten of the most effective strategies for building personal connections that will stick below.
Personal Connection Examples
There are a number of ways of forming deeper connections with people, and they all work together as part of a genuine approach to knowing people. Remember that connections form from the feeling of being seen, so all of these personal connection examples and tips should be employed with this in mind.
Here are ten examples of how to go about forming stronger connections with your contacts.
1. Have a Wide Scope
The first place you might want to look for connection is the people with whom you have plenty in common and are already familiar. This is a valid place to find that ‘click’, but the ultimate direction of your networking efforts should lead you towards a rich and diverse set of contacts from every background and experience.
A network is only as powerful as the opportunities it creates and there are infinite transferable experiences that come from a diversity of contacts. The more distant someone’s experience is to yours, the more chance they’ll have a unique perspective on your pain points, and vice versa.
So, don’t be afraid to cast a wide net. Never reject a relationship simply because it doesn’t immediately feel valuable to you – the knock-on effects of your connections may surprise you down the line, and each one builds on your reputation as a trustworthy person.
2. Engage Repeatedly
When you have made a connection, don’t let it stagnate. This is relatively easy at first but will gradually get more complicated as your network expands. We’ll go into more detail about how to manage connections in the next section, but it’s important to find a balance between checking in and pestering your contacts.
At the very least, don’t let the momentum of your connections fade over time, and be sure to engage with people at the right rate to keep them conscious of your existence. The last thing you want is to contact them only when you need help with something; that presents a parasitic approach and isn’t a good way to truly bond with someone.
Therefore, make sure you’re making contact simply out of social responsibility, that way, if you do need help, it won’t appear like a one-way relationship.
3. Give Back
On that note, it’s really important that you’re giving as well as taking. Connections like this are all about putting in as much as you get out. That’s how extended networks function in the long run, and you want to have a reputation as someone who contributes value to your contacts.
When you’re known as a generous person, people are eager to reciprocate where they can, and when everyone is playing to their strengths in a relationship, everyone benefits from that. Give back in ways that fill a gap for your connections and in ways in which you’re qualified. In turn, you may benefit from the strength of your contacts in the future.
If you’re in a network of people you’re always learning from, perhaps you need to also find a branch where you can be the educator. This isn’t always easy when you’re starting out, as most people will be more experienced than you are, but always try to find some way to help where you can.
4. Develop your Listening
The previous points are general strategies to foster meaningful connections, but there are many basic social skills that can help you on an individual basis too. Listening is the difference between showing up and taking part. And this is a significant difference when it comes to connecting with people.
Active listening is the practice of repeating back to a person a summary of various points they’ve made as a means of showing that you’ve heard them and that they’re understood. Use this when you’re in a lunch meeting, or when your contact has a lot to offload on you.
This is a learning process and will over time improve your attention and stimulate your ability to connect with people, while also making them feel heard and endearing them to you.
5. Remember Names
It should be clear to anyone with an ounce of self-reflection that when someone remembers your name, you feel immediately warmer about them. Remembering names is leadership 101, and its effect on the perceived connections with a person is well documented.
Forgetting someone’s name is a sign that you don’t care about them, and learning to remember is a skill that takes practice. There are a few ways to prevent yourself from forgetting a person’s name, but it’s ultimately an act of care to do so.
When starting a new job or taking on multiple new employees, this is particularly useful, but it can be difficult to learn at first. Fortunately, as with many of these social skills, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
6. Stay Put
With employers commonly refusing to move people up the ladder, and at the same time competing for top talent, it’s more common than ever for employees to bounce around between companies along their professional journey.
However, building real connections takes some time; possibly at least a year, maybe even two. So, if you value making these personal contacts, it could be worth considering staying in one job until there’s enough shared experience with the people around you to carry you through.
That’s not to say it’s impossible to have strong connections with people you’ve not spent a lot of time with, but there will be a correlation between the strength of the bond and the shared time you’ve spent with your contact.
7. Don’t Forget to Look Up
In some working cultures, people in positions above you may seem unreachable or out of your league in terms of making genuine connections. However, managers, bosses, or other ‘higher ups’ are equally human and value connection just as much as you do. Treating your professional superiors as people can go a long way, especially in situations where you are no longer working under them.
Most people will make it very clear whether you’re overstepping your mark, but it can be worth remembering that certain folks might consider it a sign of insubordination if you’re too familiar too quickly. However, most certainly won’t, and as long as you’re prioritizing the work that’s been set, an informal and friendly approach should only benefit you.
8. Show Up
This is tied to engagement but is an important and supplemental qualitative factor that balances the rate of interactions you set with your contacts with the value that you bring to them. Make sure that you get genuine, one-on-one time with your connections at least some of the time.
Putting in the extra effort to meet for coffee or to grab lunch, even if you’re just passing through, fosters better relationships and really helps people feel valued. The odd text here and there doesn’t leave nearly as much of a mark as meeting in person, so do it where you can.
9. Keep Your Promises
There are two parts to this: First of all, learn not to make promises or suggestions that you have no intention of following up on or are unlikely to be able to do so. Show some self-awareness when talking with people, so that you’re not setting yourself up to fail. “We should have lunch sometime!” is simply paying lip service until it actually happens.
On the flip side of this, make sure to keep the promises that you do make. One of the strongest motivators of trust is reliability, and if you can become known as someone who makes things happen, you will open up a world of respect for yourself and build exceptionally strong bonds.
10. Be Authentic
Finally, be real. None of this advice is particularly difficult unless you’re entirely uncaring and you’re forced to pretend. Empathy is a trait that almost all of us have in droves, and learning to make deep connections is simply about channeling it into the right places.
Further, these skills get easier with practice, so if you do feel like this is all unnatural and difficult, there’s a good chance it won’t feel that way forever.
The most important part of making connections is being genuine. This means being humble, honest and authentically making the effort to care about the people you’re interacting with. Whether it’s a customer, a candidate, or a prospective employer, authenticity shines through in all situations and is immediately endearing.
How to Manage Personal Connections
As mentioned, it can be exceptionally hard to keep track of all of these factors as your network improves. Yet, the size of the networks you can maintain is a direct display of how good you are at making and fostering connections.
Nurturing relationships is the way you turn contacts into connections and to do that, you need to be present repeatedly, and with value. This means it’s important to keep track of your contacts, your status, and schedule your touchpoints with them effectively.
In the early days, you may have enough organization in a simple spreadsheet or address book to keep track of your previous meetings and the details of the people you’re connecting with. Over time, you’ll probably want to expand to a more efficient and load-bearing format such as a contact relationship manager or CRM.
A CRM like Dex helps consolidate all of your contacts in one place, with the ability to group by chosen category and set alerts and reminders to check in. It also allows you to keep track of the last topics you discussed with them so that you’re able to pick up where you left off.
These are all valuable ways to supplement your efforts at making strong personal connections and can go a long way to taking the confusion out of growing a large network.
Building contacts is the first step to success in both your personal and professional life. Fostering these contacts into powerful connections that are deeply personal is the key to empowering your network and boosting your journey to success.
Do this by engaging regularly, keeping track of important information, and making sure to provide authentic, one-on-one interactive moments with all your connections, and soon you’ll be in a productive and highly-functional world of friends and close colleagues.
As you keep providing them value, they will be inspired to return the favor, and from this principle comes the foundation of every human accomplishment of the modern age.