Updated: Apr 12, 2021
One day I was sitting in a coffee shop watching people chat, and I wondered why some people seem to naturally connect with strangers, whilst others struggle to make any meaningful impact.
Over the years I've seen a lot of people come and go from companies I've worked at. And one thing I noticed is that people who get on with others rise to the top more quickly. And contrary to popular belief, nice guys can finish first.
It is of course not as easy as simply being nice. It is about relationship building and creating a personality which people want to be around. You want to construct a personal brand which makes colleagues want to work with you.
Over the years a lot has been written about how to connect with people. Statistics have been used to show how quickly people decide whether they like you or not. Some people say it takes half a minute, other people think it is just seven seconds.
I'm often sceptical about these types of "unexpected" statistics. I remember being taught about the well-known experiment that shows communication is only 7% verbal, with the other 93% coming from non-verbal communication. And although these statistics come from a mis-interpretation of the original experiment, they are still quoted in books and training sessions.
Therefore, I have my personal doubts about whether you can really make a proper connection in seven (or thirty) seconds. However, there is one technique you can use that will create a connection almost instantly. This technique doesn't promise to create a deep long-lasting connection. But it will be just strong enough to allow you to further develop the bond over time.
The technique is known as "Weak Linking", and the principle is simple. During conversation you need to find something you have in common as quickly as possible - this is the Weak Link. Don't worry how tenuous that connection might be. The key is to find any Weak Link, as soon as you can.
For example, if you are chatting to someone who told you that they came from Edinburgh. You might mention something unremarkable such as having an old work colleague who lives in Edinburgh (if this is true). The point is, it doesn't really matter how insignificant the association is. The main thing is to show that you have something in common.
As the conversation continues you can of course find other Weak Links to comment on. But the most important part of this technique is to find your first Weak Link as quickly as possible. And it really doesn't matter how weak that link is. There is evidence suggesting that at the start of a relationship, strong links are less beneficial than weaker links. The reason being is that people like to see themselves as unique and if you are too similar to them, the idea of their personal uniqueness is shattered. So rather than bonding, you may end up irritating them.
It is also better to combine together a series of Weak Links rather than just one strong similarity. Dropping a number of small connections throughout a convention is going to really help build that association.
The other part of this technique is to avoid any differences as these will cause Separation. You don't have to find a link with everything they say. But if they express an opinion, it is best to either agree or say nothing.
In my conversation I previously mentioned where I was speaking with the person who came from Edinburgh, they told me that they liked folk music, which I personally am not a big fan of. I didn't want to lie by saying that I loved this type of music. But I also didn't want to break any of the connection that we'd built previously during our conversation. So I chose to stay neutral and told them that I was not very familiar with folk music. Although this didn't strengthen the relationship, it certainly didn't harm it.
One final point to make is that the aim of some interactions with people will often not be to simply build relationships. So you may be in a position where you don't always want to be in synch with everything they say. However, it is a good idea to build those Weak Links where possible.
You are far more likely to get what you need if you have built a small connection, even if the majority of your interaction involves conflict. I have seen many negotiations where no relationship has been built at all, and this has always made it much harder to come to a satisfactory agreement. If, for example, you are negotiating a contract you may want to start the interaction with a few rapport building Weak Links before you get into the heavy negotiating stage.
If you want an easy, quick and scientifically proven way of making fast connections, you should try this approach. It is unobtrusive method of building relationships that can be used in any situation, with a guarantee of success and long-lasting impact.