An Elephant’s Guide to Relationship Building
By Jerrold (Jerry) Clifford
Professional Member since 2007 and Lamplighter contributing writer.
(Note: Previously, I promised to discuss how even shy people can build strong relationships. Just don’t be too shy to read it!)
You’ve heard it before—the best way to find a job in today’s environment is through networking. Networking is all about relationships. Build strong relationships and you build a strong network. But in order to build a strong relationship you must first create a relationship.
Conceptually, relationship building should be simple, but for someone who is introverted, shy, afraid of commitment or simply not “a people person,” this can be daunting. There are many “reasons” why people avoid relationships. Some common ones include:
- Aversion to going to meetings or talking to strangers.
- Dislike of making small talk or fear of starting a conversation.
- Fear of not making good first impression.
- Worry about not being attractive (i.e.-approachable).
- Concern that people will find me boring.
- Discomfort in social settings.
- Extreme shyness.
Building relationships can seem like sitting down to eat a sandwich but find you have been served an elephant.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Let’s solve the elephant sized challenges of relationship building.
Some folks don’t like meetings. Meetings involve unfamiliar settings and talking to strangers. The secret to becoming more comfortable is preparation. To get started, simply smile at some people you don’t know – the waiter in a restaurant, the sales associate in a store, the pizza delivery person. When you are comfortable doing that, add a simple “hello”.
(Suggestion: If you don’t want to engage in a conversation simply say “hello” and move away.) Do this every day for a week and contacts with strangers won’t bother you nearly as much.
To get comfortable with small talk go one step further. Add “How are you?” to your “hello”. The person will, probably respond, making you successful in the “art” of initiating “small talks.”
Making a good first impression involves many factors but two things play significant roles – appearance and self-confidence. To maximize your appearance, simply take a quick trip to the men’s or lady’s department of an upscale department store and then talk to a sales associate. This has the additional advantage of letting you practice your smile and small talk skills. Knowing you are dressed appropriately and displaying your winning smile will go a long way to exhibiting a strong air of confidence that would help you make a wonderful first impression. And, with that wonderful attitude, people will be attracted to you as well.
Elephants garner attention when they move. Similarly, people tend to notice other people who are active. Make a point of circulating. If you see a few people who you would like to meet, simply stand near them and smile (you’ve already mastered this skill!) and people will tend to notice you and make room for you to join their circle. If you nod your head with things with which you agree the person making the remarks will not find you boring and probably will identify with you. This is a positive basis for the start of a relationship.
Do this a few times and you will feel more at ease and further boost your confidence level. With increased confidence you will feel more comfortable in any social settings. You may not even realize that you are talking to strangers.
Being shy is not a problem by itself. It becomes a difficulty only when it prevents you from accomplishing your objectives. Since you have started building relationships, and thereby your network as well, you have achieved your goal and eliminated shyness as a barrier. Simply smile again – a skill you already mastered. You are on the right path of building relationships and a strong network.
You have learned to eat a networking elephant!
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