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6 Steps to Turn Strangers into Connections

| August 12, 2014

by Jim Bruce

All of us want to expand the breadth of our networks and build stronger relationships.  Today’s Tuesday Reading, “6 Steps to Turn Strangers into Connections“ which appeared in FastCompany, gives us some helpful suggestions to do just that.  The essay’s author is Stephanie Vozza who writes about business and time management and is the author of The Five-Minute Mom’s Club:  105 Tips to Make a Mom’s Live Easier.

How do you walk up to a stranger, introduce yourself, and strike up a conversation?  Judy Robinett, author of How to Be a Power Connector, says that we talk to strangers just 2-3% of the time.  She also says that this is sad ”because the secrets to the majority of your future successes are waiting outside your immediate network.  It’s where the gold is.“

Those of us who are not extroverts or natural connectors eventually find out that the majority of other individuals are quite nice and interesting if you focus on them.  When you do step out, whether in a face-to-face interaction, or on the phone, or online, Robinett says that you only have a short window of time to connect before you become another forgotten face.  Vozza gives us six helpful tips for turning a stranger into an acquaintance and possible a relationship:

1.  Look approachable.  Don’t be one of those people who walks down the hall focusing on their feet or sits at a table engrossed in their phone.  When you do this, your body language says stay away!  Be interested in the people around you.  Smile, it says you are open to a conversation.

2.  Say Hello.  A quick hello will break the ice.  Marriott Hotels has a ”15-5 rule“ for its employees.  When an employee comes within 15 feet of anyone in the hotel, they acknowledge the individual with eye contact or a nod.  When they are within 5 feet, the employee is to smile and say ”hello.“  It’s a good rule for all of us to follow.

3.  Assume the other person is shy.  Seventy percent of people say that they are shy.  This means two out of every three people self-admit to being shy.  So, step up.  Some of the best connectors say that they are shy, yet they create powerful networks.  ”They simply know that it takes other people to get to their goals and they come out of their comfort zone.“

4.  Find common ground.  Simply find something you have in common with the other person.  Weather, sports, children, pets, or…  It’s easy to find common ground if you are present, paying attention.

5.  Be fully present and listen.  When you are interacting with someone, give that individual your full, undivided attention.  Paying attention says your conversation partner really matters and your communication will be richer for it.

6.  Decide whether to advance to the next step.  If there’s something of interest in the conversation, followup in 24 hours saying ”thank you,“ and within a week provide some information, say an article, that keeps the interaction going.

Every day holds opportunities to build new relationships.  Give these these six tips a try as you work your way through your week.

.  .  .  .   jim