The Lost Art of Connecting

As published on April 27th, 2021 on LinkedIn Influencers.

I am what you might call a “people person”. I love meeting new people, making introductions, and as much as I can, helping others. I am also what Susan McPherson, the author of a new book called The Lost Art Of Connecting – The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships, might call a super connector. It takes one to know one Susan.

As two super connectors anchored to New York City, it is not surprising that we met each other over a decade ago. Though we can’t remember the exact occasion, we are quite sure that the introduction was made by a mutual friend and the cofounder of Apolitical, Lisa Witter. Another a super connector. Susan suggests in her book that you always try to circle back to the person who made the introduction in the first place, so in case I did not thank you previously Lisa, thank you!

 

Of course I had to write about Susan’s new book, and of course I recommend that you purchase it, as it is filled with knowledge garnered from a lifetime of building relationships.

On to the interview.

Susan, you are the ultimate connector, so it is not surprising that you would choose to write a book about it. But why this book, and why now?

One would think I wrote this book as a result of living socially-isolated for the last 12 months, but actually the book’s thesis was created long before the pandemic. I had started to witness, like many of us, that we were relying too heavily on technology and social media for outreach, and measuring success by number of followers, clicks, and likes, without a lot of the benefits of real, meaningful connection that comes from building and retaining and deepening relationships. I still love the old-fashioned outreach of picking up the phone, writing letters and sending them off in envelopes, and (pre-pandemic) hosting of gatherings, and that method has served me well in both my personal and professional life. For years, friends would ask when I was going to share that methodology, so I decided to write a book… and then COVID-19 hit. While it might seem counterintuitive, this topic of meaningful connection is more relevant than ever, and we need to discuss how to best utilize those technological tools as an aide, not a crutch, to our communication—especially at this moment as we prepare to re-emerge from months of quarantine.

In the process, I believe we’ve all learned a great deal about ourselves this past year, and we’ve realized just how important our meaningful relationships truly are. As we are reflecting on passing the one year mark of the pandemic and look forward to hopefully reconnecting in-person in the coming months, my book is a roadmap for stepping back in with intent, care, and compassion.

You interviewed so many people about connecting. Can you share a few of your favorite take-aways from those interviews?

I am so grateful to the many amazing people who agreed to be interviewed for this book, including Jamia Wilson, Tiffany Dufu, Morra Arons-Mele, Adam Grant, and so many more.

Tiffany (founder of The Cru) shared very specific tips/ideas for breaking out of our echo chambers, which in the current social media platforms we participate in, is extraordinarily challenging. If we only hear from people like us, we are never going to truly grow and expand our minds. And Morra shared that much of her career was built off of a random connection she made with Lisa Stone, one of the founders of BlogHer. Morra explained that we should never discount the random people we meet along the way in life. They could have lasting implications. A 1973 study actually showed that 82% of those surveyed found their jobs through a contact rarely or occasionally communicated with.

I am so in to saying hello to random people by the way, and indeed, I have made some wonderful connections that way. I love how you suggest doing that in your book. You present a methodology, Gather, Ask, Do. Can you expand on what this is and why it is so effective?

I’m often asked how I built so many meaningful connections in so many communities over the years, and I realized that there was a framework to it.

First, “Gather”. Assess internally what it is you are hoping to achieve, find, learn, or secure, and then determine the channels, communities, and organizations you can do that with. Then “Ask”, which is when you develop the means to have meaningful conversations in which you can learn about the people you are interacting with. And do your best to listen so you retain what they share. Once you do that, you will have the tools you need to move into the “Do” phase, which is the actionable stage. It is focused on the art of the follow-up and finding ways you can be supportive and helpful, and then in turn you become someone who is reliable, dependable, and trustworthy.

What do all of us need to know about connecting?

Connecting is like a riding a bike. It might feel rusty at first if you haven’t done it in a while, but with a little practice, fine tuning, and leading with how can I support or help, it will become easier and more natural. Connecting on this level—in meaningful ways—truly does make the world a better place.

Indeed it does. Thank you Susan.

To order The Lost Art of Connecting, please click here.

Photo with me, Susan, Farai ChideyaAmy Richards and Lisa Yancey.

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