I confess. In most areas of my life I’m a loner.
Sports have been a major part of my life ever since I can remember. And for the most part I’ve gravitated towards individual activities. Singles tennis, running, skateboarding, biking, swimming. All of which involve very minimal interaction with other people – if any at all. Don’t get me wrong, I can handle having another person next to me on a court or a field, but more than that and it becomes a threat to my existence (kinda’ like what Warhol said about his nudity).
Even though I was nominated ‘best all around’ during my senior year in high-school (I can’t believe I’m sharing this with you) in college I was labelled a GDI (and proud).
At work I tend to eat lunch alone at my desk. I’m known for saying ‘no thanks’ to invitations – more so if they involve going out with a group. It could be because I am a bit of a workaholic that I stay back working, but mostly it’s because I love to sit and enjoy the silence. That’s how I gather my thoughts and psych myself up for the afternoon.
So how on earth does a loner like me end up making a good living in business development and getting several awards in the process? When it’s a job that requires that I mingle with people?
Here are my secrets to networking and getting what I want from people:
1. Be genuine: It is much more likely that people who care about you are those who will help you. The best way I know how to get people to care about me is for me to care about them. It really is that simple. At work functions I apply the 80/20 rule and I only spend time with people I find interesting. I know that if I bond with one or two people, chances are I’ll be able to get more out of our relationship than if I tap 20 people and move on. And I’ll enjoy myself along the way because I’ll be dealing with people I genuinely like and who I feel I can be myself around.
2. Don’t wait until you need someone to approach them: I don’t like being used. That’s how I know that other people don’t like it either. To avoid getting to a point where I only contact people when I need them, I stay loosely connected – because I care to know how they are (remember, we bonded at some point). It’s just like practicing preventive medicine vs the curative kind. If I approach someone when I need them, it’s too late. They will sense that I’m using them. And although they may play along and get me what I want in the short-term, chances are that I’ve lost a relationship.
3. First give: I love to receive things from people – and it doesn’t have to be big for my energy levels to spike. A sincere compliment has a similar effect on me as a bunch of flowers – both trigger my serotonin response. And when someone gives me something – as small as a compliment – I feel good about being nice back to them. That’s why I know others also feel good about reciprocating after I’ve given them something. Making deposits in people’s emotional bank accounts has proven to be a good investment. If you’re thinking that it’s too Machiavellian to go around complimenting people left and right, re-read my secret number one.
4. Ask, ask, ask: I admire people who persevere. And I will go out of my way for people who believe so much in what they’re doing that they’re willing to do anything to see their cause through. When someone I barely know asks me for something, I find it gutsy, not annoying. More so, I feel honored that someone with such great qualities considers that I can help them. That’s why I believe that anyone worth asking will not mind my own asking.
How have you loners out there made it in this network-crazed world? I’d love to know…