I’ll never forget the earliest glimpse I had of what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was at the top of a jungle gym in the playground of the apartment where I was raised in São Paulo, Brazil and I started singing at the top of my lungs – a New Kids on The Block song, “Please, don’t go girl!”
At around 5 or 6 I was already obsessed with the English language and with the United States. I didn’t know exactly how, but I knew I wanted to work with languages.
Fast forward 30 years and I’m a Portuguese interpreter in Colorado state courts and an empowerment coach for Brazilian women living abroad. This is the story I remind myself of when I feel discouraged in my business and also what I urge every entrepreneur to think about: what is your earliest memory of your WHY?
I’m sure you’ve heard several business mentors talking about keeping your “why” close to your heart at all times (especially when things get rough), but I like to use the same approach to everyday connections – whether they be networking events, sales calls, cold messaging or being put on the spot by grandma at a family dinner, when she asks you what you do for a living.
Regardless if you’re an introvert or extrovert, there’s something about talking to other people about ourselves and what we do that is daunting. Except, a business doesn’t exist without networking—which means creating relationships.
While I’m no expert in dating, I like comparing the dynamics of the importance of networking to that of dating because it can make this concept so much easier to understand: you will never find a significant other if you don’t put yourself out there – the same happens in business.
So here are three tips to get out of your head and really pull from your heart (and your “why”) to create effective connections in any context:
You Have Nothing To Lose
Usually what keeps us from doing most things in life is fearing rejection – “what will they think of me?” The fact of the matter is: you won’t know until you speak your mind.
This reminds me of the amazing book Go For No by Richard Fanton & Andrea Waltz. If you stay quiet you already have a “no” or disapproval; whereas if you actually take action and open your mouth (or start moving your fingers while typing!) you’re that much closer to a “yes”. In these moments, if you think back to the story of your why, it’ll be that much easier to move forward instead of second-guessing yourself. Would the “little” version of you care so much about what others think? Or would they (“little” you) choose to pursue their dream instead?
In most cases, it may be hard to adopt the “I don’t care what people think” attitude, but I’ve found that reverting back to your why AND to that simple and assertive essence we had in our childhood can do wonders. Start by reaching out to people you normally wouldn’t or carrying on a conversation when you usually would have kept to yourself. Challenge yourself to speak your mind more often and watch how many more opportunities will come your way!
Be More Interested Than Interesting
While taking initiative is important, remember everyone wants to be heard. Developing the ability to be a good listener can help build and improve any relationship because it allows you to make meaningful contributions to conversations – and in turn, become more interesting and have the opportunity to share your points of view.
While you probably have heard this tip when it comes to talking to prospects, try applying that in your daily life and form a habit out of it. We tend to compartmentalize life and relationships, but as I’ve mentioned before, every human connection is very similar.
Next time you talk to a friend, experiment really paying attention and coming up with follow-up questions instead of just mindlessly nodding. Notice how much more engaged they will be and prone to ask you questions about you in return. In fact, they might even be surprised to see how interested you are in them – it’s definitely not the norm when we don’t have any ulterior motive other than simply listening.
Think Long Term
Who hasn’t met an amazing person or got excited about the possibility of a new lead, client, opportunity only to become disappointed when it ended up turning into nothing? But was it really nothing?
We usually see success in a very limited way and impose certain conditions to call an experience successful. What if you started seeing every new connection as a gain regardless of the outcome? I truly believe every time you decide to do step 1 and 2 (put yourself out there and actively listening), there is no way you can lose because a planted seed has to yield something at some point.
And especially when we think about the globalized era we live in with social media and technology, remember how easy it would be for someone you made a connection with to come and find you weeks, months or years later. All they would have to do is a quick search online to contact you or refer you to someone else.
Next time you get discouraged to start a conversation or schedule a coffee with someone, remember these three steps and take Mel Robbins’ advice in The 5 Second Rule: count backwards from 5 and let the world know what you’re all about!