This morning, I was riding the bus and a couple got on and was speaking very loudly so that everyone else could hear about their issues with a gutter drain (it’s been raining a lot in the Boston area lately). I was noticing that I was getting annoyed as I really couldn’t get away from their conversation. Trying to be the on-the-way-to-enlightenment kind of guy I aspire to, I asked myself why was this so triggering for me. What came up for me was that I felt like my personal space wasn’t being respected.
I’ve also recently run into a number of people who have moved to the Boston area and have mentioned about how difficult it is to meet people here. I know that we New Englanders have a reputation for being cold and unfriendly (which I never understood. I’m very friendly and I have more friends than I can keep up with). When people ask me how I know do many people, I always mention it’s from all the activities that I’m involved in (church, dancing groups, etc.) I have something in common with these people that we share, and that’s how I get to know people.
I’ve also noticed that people from “away” seen to think that just because someone is in close proximity to you, that you should get to know them. I can identify a number of people that I see quite often in my daily life, but I’ve got no reason to talk with them other than they are physically close to me. It would be really awkward for me to just go up and strike up a conversation with nothing in particular to talk about (and this is from an extrovert’s extrovert!)
While this might be appropriate in other parts, for us New Englanders it’s an intrution that goes against our “good fences make good neighbors” ethic. Call it shy, call it proper, but that’s the way we are. Demonstrate that we’ve got something else in common and we’ll talk for days.
So, what does this have to do with networking? Everything.
When you are trying to network to find out information, if you just go up to someone randomly, they might feel confronted and uncomfortable. Can you demonstrate that you’ve got something on common? Can you respect their privacy and borders by not asking too much? Can you demonstrate that it would be a benefit for me to keep the conversation going with you? If you’re approaching me yet making me work to build the connection, I’m not going to think it’s worth the effort.
So, how do you connect with people?