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Community Connections: 4 Tips For Building Your Network

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Opinions expressed by BLCC contributors are their own.

Now, more than ever, the entire world is understanding the importance of community connections. Whether you consider yourself to be an introvert or an extrovert, humans are social animals and the last couple of years have proven to be a very challenging time to connect and meet new people.

A lack of social connection can adversely affect physical and emotional health. Studies have shown that it can also affect our lifespan more than obesity, physical inactivity, or even smoking 15 cigarettes a day [1]!

Likewise., the Lancet recently published an article highlighting that periods of isolation, even less than 10 days, can have long-term effects [2].

These days I’ve noticed that a lot of my more introverted friends, my husband included, are struggling to connect with others more than ever. Yet, here’s the thing, belonging to a supporting and caring community has a positive impact on our health, both mental and physical.

Dozens of studies have shown that people who have community connections are less stressed, happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.

In this blog, I am sharing four tips for building your network, even when you’re feeling more introverted than ever before.

Community Connections

Building Community Connections

It’s a common misconception that people with strong interpersonal skills are born extroverts who love large groups, crave being the center of attention, and thrive in collaboration. This idea makes the rest of us feel like we just don’t have ”people” skills.

However, interpersonal skills are just like any other skill and they can be learned, even if they scare you.

I’m sure you’ve built skills that once scared you. When I was a kid, I was terrified to take my feet off the ground when learning to ride my bike, but I still did it and have that skill for life now. I bet you do too!

Given the positive impacts of building community connections, it is worth the effort. Here’s how to get started…

4 Tips For Building Your Network

(Even if you’re not a “people person”)

1) Believe you can

When introverts hear the words “interpersonal skills” they generally want to run and hide under the covers. Yet, we all use interpersonal skills to connect and interact with others effectively. It isn’t being the center of attention or speaking over other people in the room. It isn’t having all the answers or telling the best jokes.

It’s being able to make others feel seen and heard through active interest and deep listening skills. It’s being able to read the room and understand how to respond in different situations. It’s following up and staying in touch. It’s being yourself rather than trying to fit in.

In short, while it might not seem to come naturally for many of us, people skills are something introverts can be GREAT at.

The first thing you need to do to create community connections and build your network is to shift your mindset and believe you can develop these skills, because you can.

2) Here’s the secret: It’s not about you

One of the most common things I hear from my clients is that they get social anxiety because they don’t know what to say. They think they are bad at telling stories and that everything they might have to talk about is going to bore everyone.

If you’re reading this and thinking, I totally get that too, then have I got news for you!

You don’t have to be the center of attention in conversations! Connecting with others isn’t about you! Phew!!

So what will you talk about? People LOVE talking about themselves, all you need to do to connect with someone is get curious about them and ask questions.

Who are they? What do they do for work or for fun? Who do they know at the party?

Questions will get the conversation flowing but don’t be a creepy drill sergeant. Give them time to respond and ask follow-up questions or share ways that you connect with what they are saying.

Make sure you’re not in your head thinking about what you’re going to say next, just breathe and listen, you’ll know what to say when it’s your turn to talk if you’ve been really listening.

Pause if you need to think, silence is only awkward if you choose to perceive it that way.

3) Follow up

How do you go from “nice chat” to “best buds”? You follow up.

Before you walk away from a conversation with someone that you would like to develop a relationship with, ask for their contact details.

You can say, “I really enjoyed our conversation and would love to connect on social media, what platforms do you use?” Or “This has been really great conversation, let’s exchange phone numbers (or email addresses)”!

Then, follow up within 24 hours. Send them an email or message saying that you enjoyed meeting them and highlight something from the conversation that you connected with, this will help ensure that they remember you.

As Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, says, “Make follow-up a habit. Make it automatic. When you do, the days of struggling to remember people’s names – and of other people struggling to remember yours – will be a thing of the past.”

If you want to build community connections, you have to follow up.

4) Join online groups

Luckily for us more “introverted” types, it is easier than ever to connect virtually.

In fact, having never met in person, we created the Best Life Coach Collective despite us founders living in completely different countries (and time zones).

Today people are actively creating community connections in new and innovative ways. You can join groups on just about any social media platform there is. From Facebook Groups to Clubhouse, to Discord or Slack, there is a community out there that you’ll love to be a part of.

To understand what type of community you want to be a part of, I suggest you start by engaging in one to see how it feels. Ask yourself these questions: Is it welcoming? Are the members engaged? Do you see yourself in others within it?

Don’t be afraid to visit a bunch of communities or meetups to find the right fit for you!

Wrapping It Up (with a holiday bow)

The holiday season is generally thought of as a time of joy and love, but many may feel more isolated than ever.

Some may live far from family and are missing seeing their loved ones more this time of year; others dread going to holiday parties and end up staying home.

Which makes community connections all the more important. During this season, take time to foster your most meaningful relationships.

Additionally, if you’re feeling lonely, or just want to hang, we would love to have you in our new Facebook Group: Best Life (Coach) Collective!! This is an inclusive + safe space for life coaches and anyone looking to connect with a life coach, to build relationships and support each other in living our Best Lives!

See you there!

Sarah Mae | Rise With SMae

References:

[1] Harvard Health Publishing. 2010. “The health benefits of strong relationships.” Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch. Retrieved Nov.22, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/ newsletter_article/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships

[2] Brookes et. al. 2020. “The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence.” The Lancet. Retrieved Nov.22, 2021, from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30460-8/fulltext

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