Connecting When It Counts

Feb 29, 2024

Our relationships are rich and multifaceted. Despite that, more and more interactions feel robotic and impersonal. Whether it’s the automated LinkedIn connection request message or a Facebook friend wishing us a generic happy birthday, one can’t help but feel that meaningful interactions are being replaced by mechanical ones.

At best, interactions like these feel noisy, at worst, they are detrimental. They achieve the opposite of what the sender probably intended, making us feel like an entry in a CRM, someone to be systematically nurtured, fattened, in case we become useful to the sender.

We want to believe that the intent behind these messages is a good one. That our contacts care. We want to connect and invest in our relationships. In our highly networked world, and with existing tools not keeping up, it keeps getting harder and harder to go about it right away.

Here are some tried and tested techniques that might help you develop the right habits, and inspire you to make the next connection count.

Close the Loop

We’ve already covered the value of making thoughtful requests. One simple action here is to follow up afterwards to close the loop. A genuine “thank you” or an update on how it went can leave a lasting positive impression. Think about it - this person took the time and energy to help you, they shared their knowledge, gave you a useful recommendation or made a valuable introduction. Make it a habit to reach out afterwards. We are simple beings. These acts are highly appreciated, can strengthen bonds and nurture your relationships.

Closing the loop has the added benefit of helping you quantify which connections worked and what didn’t, helping you get better at formulating requests.

For the receiver, being acknowledged and appreciated fosters feelings of validation, motivation, and happiness, leading to a strengthened sense of value and impact. The mutual exchange of gratitude contributes to a positive network culture, building trust and setting the stage for reciprocal support. Overall, expressing gratitude enhances your emotional well-being, creating a positive and collaborative environment for all.

Making this a habit is easy enough, all it takes is a quick message after the fact!

Plan Ahead and Reach Out with Intent

Of course, reaching out to your contacts shouldn’t only happen when there is something to be thankful about. A potentially more potent way is to get in touch unexpectedly with a timely message.

Nurturing your network systematically does not mean it needs to be mechanical. We think that setting a reminder to reach out to someone every 3 months sends the wrong message. For a message to be genuine, it needs to be meaningful.

Instead, try to make taking notes a habit. Note down relevant topics and important dates when you meet someone you care about. This takes some work, for sure, but it’s worth it. See it as an investment in a relationship you care about.

Instead of checking in every three months, check in at the right time to ask how a talk went, congratulate someone on a career milestone, or simply wish them good luck before an important event. Taking notes helps you remember important things about people you care about. They will recognize the effort and appreciate it.

Adopt a Networking Mindset

The more you approach networking with intent, the more opportunities you will start to notice in your day to day. You might meet someone and realize they would benefit from an introduction, you might read an article and immediately think of someone who would find it interesting. Someone might just come to mind randomly. Seize and act on these opportunities. If you mean it, the message will be well received.

Make a habit of closing the loop after an introduction or a favor, put the effort in to note down meaningful learnings and relevant dates to reach out with the right message at the right time, and practice keeping your network in mind as you go about your day. Three habits that, exercised mindfully and genuinely, can have an outsized impact on nurturing your network!

Moving forward, we want to hear more from you as well! Surely over your career, you developed habits, tactics and workflows for maintaining and nurturing connections, and in this survey, we ask you to share them with us and the community! We'll share the insights with everyone soon.

© Dunbar GmbH 2024