THE BLOG
11/05/2013 02:31 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Three Key Actions to Connecting With People

In the past years, I've held a myriad of odd jobs. Busboy, dishwasher, shipping specialist, camp counselor, football ref, lacrosse coach, and general jack-of-all-trades. The only job I've held where I actively trained other staff though was at a summer camp in North Carolina. Training the counselors at Camp Rockmont was a hectic week with tons of material to cover. Games, rules, procedures, devotions, and on and on. Even though we set aside an entire week to train, there's always information left untrained, and must be learned.

So how can we do this? How can we give our employees and the next generation a simple filter to run decisions through when we're working jobs or simply serving as a valuable member of the community? Connecting with people in a meaningful way takes time and trust, but how do we build these relationships?

From a personal standpoint, we spend a lot of our time networking, learning how to connect with people and build a relationship, whether it's personal or professional. Meaningful relationships, because they are at the core of personal growth and trust.

I've come to realize that all of our training and networking is an uphill battle if we don't have a few crucial elements in place before we make any connection. These actions don't replace good training and relationships, but if we attempt to connect without them in place, we will rarely help anyone, including ourselves. To focus your energy on these things will go a long way in making you a better friend, spouse, co-worker and family member. Let's dive in, shall we?

1. You have to show up


We don't always cover this because it seems so obvious, but it's at the core of any good relationship and work experience. Being present is more than simply a physical act, and the biggest challenge is to be present mentally. Pay attention to people, look them in the eye, ask questions, listen and help where you're able. But all of this happens because you showed up.

I believe we have the tendency to over-think our lives, because so much is gained now by being the kind of person who shows up when others need him or her. Be the kind of person who shows up.

How to show up

We all know what it's like to have a person in your life you know will be there for you. The challenge is not to over-commit yourself so you can be truly committed and present to a few things and people in your life. Make a practice of saying no to few things, so you can say yes to one big thing!

2. Listen to people


This is incredibly difficult for me, because even though I will look at you, keep good eye contact, and nod when appropriate, I'm not always listening to you. I'm usually just formulating my rebuttal and waiting for you to stop talking. See the difference? It's better than flat-out not paying attention, but still not truly listening.

My friend Karen is the best listener I know, in fact she's such a good listener it's intense for me! Karen makes a person feel special because she will not be distracted by others and will not interrupt you to butt in her own opinion. She listens well and many people will point to that as a sign of her great friendship.

How to listen well

To start, have your phone somewhere else. I swear it burns a hole in my pocket and begs me to check my notifications! With it safely behind, make eye contact. Most importantly, hear the other person talk. Don't formulate your response, or allow your mind to drift. Come back to this moment, this person. In a sense, listening is very similar to meditating. Despite our inner chatter, we must continually return to what is happening right in front of us.

3. Serve others


This act is so old-school, so anti-establishment and readily trumpeted by many of the best writers, marketers, and business folks around. Because it's so against our nature to take care of ourselves first, can be very hard to implement. Look to help others first. Provide real value to them and expect nothing in return. Give freely of your talents to help other people reach their goals, and I believe in turn you will find many looking to help you do the same. Make your passion solving problems and serving others.

How to serve others freely

For me, I can give while holding a place in my heart that wants something in return. I give with hope of an equal exchange. While this is very normal, it's not the way to truly give. If the other person doesn't respond in kind, I can feel myself resenting them. This is not the way for us to give!

Serving others is simple, but is a courageous action for us to take. Ask how you can help, be listening for ways your talents can fill the needs of others. One of the best ways to help people is by connecting to others who can serve them as well! I guarantee that if you're the type of person who is always helping people, they will start asking how they can help you in the same ways!

Why this matters


Forming meaningful connections with people isn't as complicated as we make it. Sometimes we can create additional information around an action as an excuse to not take the action! We think there's something else to learn, and then we'll be ready! Not so. You have the tools necessary to provide value and make connections with people. If you're nervous, just don't make the conversation about you! Just show up, listen and be helpful.

You'll be the unsung hero of the day.

What are some other ways you've made meaningful connections is unconventional ways? Please share with the community by leaving a comment!