Today’s business world is increasingly a patchwork quilt of different cultures, races, religions and perspectives. So how can you make a connection and do business with those with whom you seem to have little in common?
In The Art of Connecting, Claire Raines and Lara Ewing write that the first thing you need to realize is that you share much more with a diverse array of people than you might think. They present five core principles to help you identify that common ground:
- There’s always a bridge: Those who are adept at forging connections believe that they can find things in common with all people, no matter how different they are. This belief is crucial to help you when you’re tired or frustrated and struggling to make a connection.
- Use your curiosity as a tool: You’re far likelier to make a connection if you’re genuinely interested in people from different backgrounds. Rather than approaching those who aren’t like you with a judgmental and self-righteous attitude, constantly ask yourself, “Where is the common ground?” and “How can I use this information to my advantage?”
- Expect the best from every contact: Masters of the art of connection approach every interaction with anticipation and eagerness, saying to themselves, “I wonder what I can learn from this person.” They assume that every new contact has valuable contributions to make and important things to say. And they don’t see connecting with people who are different from them as a necessary evil; on the contrary, they actively seek them out, figuring they can learn more from them.
- Treat each person as a culture of one: Guard against the tendency to stereotype people. Certainly, gender, faith and country of origin are important pieces of who a person is, but you should also pursue clues about his or her family, education, personal milestones, style, artistic tastes and so on.
- Don’t expect reciprocity: Just because you’re a great listener doesn’t mean all your new contacts will be. And even if you’re friendly to everyone you meet, some won’t return the favour. But don’t take it personally. Most of the time, successful connectors are rewarded for their efforts and good intentions. And when they’re not, they do their best to figure out what caused the reaction so they can be more successful in the future.