Why Build Networks and Create Communities?
As human beings, one of the most important things we have to do in order to thrive is to become a part of a community. When we build a network, as our relationships grow and deepen, we form a community. If you were to ask me what I do for a living, I would say that I grow my network every day and work on being a part of many different communities. In this post, I’ll share with you some of my favorite strategies to build networks and create communities.
In a few days, my family and I will be moving across the country to live closer to my family. I’ve lived in the Greater Toronto Area for most of my life, and been in the community of Burlington for just over a decade. During that time, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by an incredibly community of people. What I love most is that whether I’ve met someone through business networking, my daughter’s activities or in our neighborhood, our friendship comes first. This can be a really big challenge for B to C entrepreneurs and I’ll share what I’ve learned in this area too.
The first step to networking
Networking can often seem like a dirty word. When we think of this word, it can conjure up images of being at a networking meeting and having people shove their cards into our hands, before we’ve even had the chance to create a meaningful connection. And while this does still happen every once in a while, that’s not really what networking is about.
What I find interesting is that when you look up the definition of networking, it’s about furthering one’s career or growing a business. The reality is that all of us can benefit from creating a network, whether we are in business or have a career right at this time. To me, a network is about building relationships with people that we meet in all aspects of our lives. And the first step in building your personal network is to talk to strangers.
Why we’re afraid to talk to strangers
How many of us were told that it was dangerous to talk to strangers when we were young? And is it true that there is such a thing as ‘stranger danger’; however the only way to meet new people and make new friends is by talking to strangers. I came across a challenge that has helped some of my business partners in the past, and it may help you if you have trouble saying hello to strangers.
First, your goal is to make eye contact with 10 people as you go throughout your day. Once you’ve been able to do that, then you can move on to step two which is to make eye contact and nod. Again, the goal is to do this with 10 people (not necessarily in the same day). After that, you’re going to make eye contact, nod and say hello but quickly keeping moving on so that they don’t have a chance to reply. Repeat with 10 – 20 people. By now, you’ve acknowledged 30 – 40 new people!
Then you’ll be ready for the last step, which is to make eye contact, nod and say hello and wait for them to reply. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can also ask them a simple question. This all sounds very simple, but for so many people the idea of connecting with a stranger can be debilitating. What I’ve found is that if we do this step by step, by the end of about a week, you’ll be feeling so much more comfortable around people you don’t know, and you’ll be able to start to build networks anywhere you go.
How do we create communities?
Take a look around at the people who are surrounding you. Chances are you are already a part of many different communities. The challenge is whether or not we choose to create relationships with those in our communities. Have you met your neighbors? Even if you don’t want to become best friends with them, it’s really important to know who lives near you. What I have found is that when you take the time to connect with those who live close by, everyone benefits. When my husband and I lived in an apartment, we knew almost everyone on our floor and many of the other tenants. We would say hello in the elevator or parking lot, or start a conversation in the laundry room. Our community really came together when we had a fire in the building, thankfully no one was injured.
What is a community?
I found a definition of community that I really love : a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Where in your life do you have a community or the potential to create a community? Why not choose to be the one who creates a community, rather than wait for someone else to do it? When my daughter was born, we had a little community of moms that would get together once a month for a Mama’s night out. It was a great way for us to connect and share our stories, as well as get out of the house. The moms who came were not all from the same community, but I invited them all to join me and create a new one. Some of those friendships are still going strong today, almost 7 years later.
The one most important thing to remember
No matter what, the most important thing to remember when we build a network or create communities is that we are all human being first. And we all crave connection and a feeling of being included. Before you think about what you can ‘get’ from the other person, find out how you can give or be of service to them. I have found that building a relationship on a foundation of service works really well, whether it’s for business or personal, or even both.
I will truly miss the local community here in Burlington when I move.There’s usually a good chance that I’ll run into someone I know when I’m out and around town. That’s something I will miss. Thankfully, the skill of networking and creating communities translates to anywhere in the world. And I’m excited to build new communities in our new city of Langley.
Where in your life can you create a new community? Or if you’re not ready for that, will you take on the challenge of making eye contact with 10 people today while you’re out and about? Life is too short to miss out on all of the amazing people we are surrounded by. You never know where a simple hello could lead.
Stay tuned!! I’ll be doing my first live event in the Vancouver area on Saturday Jan 20th, 2018. Save the date even if you’re not local, as we may have a live stream option available.