I was attending a party in a Downtown LA restaurant called Casa, when I met a young gentlemen and we exchanged business cards. I noticed his last name was Salkin, and I reflexively asked if he was related to Rosa Salkin, a woman I met over 20 years ago in business. Dennis Salkin responded, “That’s my mom, how did you know her?” I explained that there was a connection through commercial real estate, and that she had recently lost her husband, his dad. Any and all pretense or business motivation evaporated. He was stunned and taken back in time. All I could do was wish his mom my very best, and get into the moment with him. He was impressed that my memory was “so good,” but I was more into the feeling of a real “connection” that had meaning to both of us. As I departed, I looked into his eyes, and felt compelled to give him a hug. A handshake didn’t suffice. In man’s search for meaning, this encounter meant more to me than any possible business connection or gain. This is what connecting is all about. You never know unless you ask.
When you are talking to others, whether in a formal networking context or not, you will find things in common with them. It could be where you went to school, your ethnicity, playing a particular sport or game, having children the same age, or virtually anything. In order to make connections you need to capitalize on common experiences, interests, and skills. For example, if you find out that someone attended the same university as you did, you could say “Oh, I went there also.” If the other person shows excitement about this shared experience then you can ask pertinent questions to determine if the commonalities run deeper such as having the same professors or major. If you find out that there is strong common ground then you can discuss it more and expand the connection. You do have to be careful because not everyone has an equal degree of connection to or affinity for their past. I went to UCLA and received two degrees from there. In addition, I am deeply involved in Bruin Professionals as a charter member, on the Board of Directors, Speaker Chair for a chapter, and probably attend as many or more meetings at the various chapters than any other member.
So when I meet someone who went to UCLA, I express genuine interest and excitement and often invite them to Bruin Professionals meetings or events. They may or may not share my degree of connection to UCLA. Commonalities serve as an opener, and if we want to connect we need to jump on them and use them as a means to deepen our connections.
There are countless ways we can find a common ground. Sometimes we find them accidentally and other times we might learn something about someone and then bring up the topic. The goal is to find the possible synergy and to “click” with others. George Fraser (2008) utilizes the concept of “clicking” to describe the essence of networking and building productive relationships in his aptly named book Click. .
Here are some examples of possible topics of potential commonality we can connect and click with others:
• Current Events
• T.V. Shows
• Regions of Birth
• Foreign Language
• People in Common
• Birth Order
• Fraternal Organizations
• How We Spend Time
The important thing is not necessarily YOUR interest in any of the above topics, but finding common ground and others’ interest in them. For example, you might be very focused on retirement but the thirty year old to whom you are speaking is probably not. The more versatile you are in the range of discussion topics with which you are comfortable, the more potential people you can reach.