“We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.” - the Dalai Lama. Having plentiful and strong relationships is undeniably a huge contributing factor in success. Knowing people gives you access to opportunities, information, help and ideas. Good relationships should also make both parties feel happy and fulfilled. Establishing those relationships, especially in a business setting, is an area which many people could definitely improve, and that is what we are going to explore. When you think business relationships, you often think of networking. The word ‘networking’ can carry negative connotations, and perhaps for good reason, as it is often done incorrectly, insincerely and for selfish reasons. If the above motives and methods are corrected, however, networking can be an easy, fulfilling and rewarding weapon in your arsenal in the campaign for success. So, how does networking look when it’s done wrong? The image that often comes to mind when networking is mentioned is that of an ambitious suit at an event handing out business cards and reciting their pitch to anyone who comes in close proximity, not really interested in what you have to say and always looking for the next (more important) person to talk to. What this person does not seem to understand is that it’s not just the number of connections you make, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the authenticity of the connections that make the difference. How can it be done better? The first thing to point out is that networking is better treated as a set of habits, rather than an activity. Going to networking events can be useful, but you are likely to see better results, with less time spent, by changing the ways you connect and interact with people on a daily basis. Below, I have adapted some of my favourite ideas from Keith Ferrazzi’s book ‘Never Eat Alone’ and from ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ into four actionable strategies to improve your networking: Share your passions Human beings build their relationships based on shared interests, attributes, experiences and connections. Think about those who you like the most in this world and are likely to go the distance for. Your best friends are likely such because you have grown up with them and remember and like the same things. To meet other likeminded people, you need to go where they go and do what they do, so bear this in mind when choosing which activities you are going to engage in. Another way to implement this is to tell people about yourself, and find out what makes them tick, when you meet them, in order to find out what you have in common. Help in meaningful ways Helping other people is a great way to form deep connections with them. Ferrazzi points out that helping someone with a health or wealth issue, or showing a sincere interest in their children, for instance, can help you to develop an extremely strong bond with that person. Helping somebody in one of these domains can be as simple as recommending a workout or personal trainer, passing on their CV to a potential new employer, or mentoring/providing advice to their child. Before you do this, you’ll need to find out where they could use assistance. To find this out, you will need to having meaningful conversations which lead to these topics. Whilst it shouldn’t be your motive for doing so, helping people also often comes with the added benefit of an increased tendency for them to reciprocate in turn, which could come in useful some day. What else are you good at or do you have deep knowledge of that you can use to help others? Identify these areas and see if they can apply to the problems of people you meet. Be Interesting How many times have you been stuck talking to someone that you would rather not be? Can you safely say that people don’t think the same about conversations with you? To be safe, try to ensure that you have relevant, interesting opinions and experiences to talk about in social situations. With regard to experiences, often the more unusual the more interesting they are. On top of keeping up with the latest news and trends, and engaging in interesting activities, gaining deep knowledge in a field can help you to form unique points of view and give advice on the subject, which will be valuable to others. When meeting with somebody who you wish to form a connection with, you can also research what you think they may find interesting ahead of time. Think Win/Win One powerful statement from Never Eat Alone which sticks with me is “every human is an opportunity to help and be helped.” This fits well with the “Think Win/Win” chapter from Stephen R. Covey’s book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, which explains how both parties in an interaction will feel better about it if they both benefit from the outcome. If you can offer value to whoever you are interacting with, they are more likely to do so in return, and the increased positivity and better results of the interaction are likely to help foster a stronger bond with that person. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to improving your relationships, but hopefully it will provide you with some actionable steps to take to help you improve in this area.