Can you believe that?
In 1929, long before the advent of the internet and online social networks, a Hungarian author named Frigyes Karinthy wrote about the idea that “all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other so that a chain of ‘a friend of a friend’ statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.”
This theory, commonly known as the six degrees of separation, has gained increasing popularity and been put to test many times over the years, most notably by Microsoft researchers (who found it to be true after studying records of 30 billion electronic conversations among 180 million people in various countries) and Kevin Bacon who has jokingly been referred to as “the center of the entertainment universe” after he inspired a related game that links Hollywood actors through their movies.
Strengthen your connections in three simple steps!
In applying this theory to our own lives, it becomes apparent that some connections would be easier to make than others, and that some would be more inclined to help us or grant audience if we asked.
How can we strengthen these connections and leverage them to get us ahead in life?
1. Be intentional about building your networks.
Knowing someone who knows someone is only the bare minimum if you intend to leverage these connections for growth. The more important thing is to focus on building genuine personal relationships with people, so that they can like and trust you as an individual. Your aim should be to transition from the realm of acquaintance into someone that they would recognize and be excited to interact with one-on-one.
Seek out connections and build relationships with like-minded people, people you admire, and even people who challenge your beliefs!
Make use of all available channels to connect like social media, networking events, chance meetings and so on.
2. Be aware of the value that you can bring to the table.
So you’ve identified someone that you’d like to connect with, now what?
The most dependable rule of thumb is to ask by giving. This simply means that we should endeavor to demonstrate the value that we can bring to any given relationship, before we ask anything of them. If you’d like to be mentored by someone, how will you make it worthwhile for them? Why should they listen to you, out of all the people that are vying for their attention?
Always remember that the most meaningful and sustainable relationships are the ones in which everybody wins, so you should work at building your value just as hard as you work at building your networks.
3. Recognize that rejection is simply an opportunity to refine your offer.
Don’t be discouraged when you get no for an answer. In most cases, when anyone turns you down, it’s because what you’re offering is what you think they need, as opposed to what they actually need or want. A lot of us miss out on great opportunities because we are unable to look at things from the other person’s perspective.
Reframe your offer and ask them what conditions would make the connection worthwhile for them, and then decide if you are able to work with them on their terms.
If someone truly isn’t ready to connect at a given time, graciously offer to work with them in the future, should the opportunity ever present itself. Remember that you’re in it for the long haul and don’t necessarily need to achieve anything at first contact.
The aim is to genuinely create meaningful alliances in your life because like they say, “your network is your net worth.”