Even before the pandemic gripped the world, we had become a nation engulfed in loneliness. People have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook, and countless “connections” on LinkedIn, yet real connection remains rare and elusive. At a time when we are more physically distant than ever before—how can we reverse the growing trends of disconnection to forge meaningful connections in business and in life?
Making a genuine connection sparks learning, knowledge sharing, reduces burnout, spurs innovation, and creates a sense of purpose and well-being. In her new book, The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships, serial connector and communications expert Susan McPherson argues that we need to foster value-based connections by going back to basics.
Technology she says, is a tool, not a means to an end. Additionally, she offers a practical three-step framework to harness our shared humanity and shape our interactions daily—whether on Zoom or in real life:
- GATHER: Instead of waiting for the perfect event to happen, think outside of the box and create your own
opportunity―but keep it simple. Start by looking within: What is your purpose in life? What constellations
of connections do you most need? Proactively seek diversity and find connectors who can further expand
- ASK: Instead of leading with our own rehearsed elevator pitches asking for help, offer to help―opening
the door to share resources, experience, contacts, and perspectives different from our own.
- DO: Turn new connections into meaningful relationships. Follow through on the promises you made, keep
in touch, and learn to move past small talk by embracing your vulnerability and having conversations that
Below is an excerpt from The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business
Relationships, in which McPherson dives into how conversations and actions around money can forge lasting relationships, and can facilitate more intentional and authentic connections with people.
It may come as a surprise that money can engender connection. But whether it’s talking about money (hello, vulnerability) or putting your dollars where your passions are, when used skillfully, even the tricky territory of giving, receiving or talking about money can pave the way to greater closeness.
First, by financially supporting businesses you care about, you can build meaningful connections. Whether it’s a small contribution to a crowdfunding site or a larger investment in a business, putting your money behind the organizations and people you want to support is a great way to build relationships in a truly meaningful way. You don’t need to have a large saving account to do this; Just $10 to a crowdsourced campaign could connect you to an organization you may care about for life, and that can introduce you to fascinating people.
Similarly, every frank and open conversation you’re willing to have about money is another way to engender depth, openness, and transparency in your business relationships, too. When we can have tough conversations about hard things, a feeling of closeness emerges, and talking about tricky subjects like money can facilitate deep connections. Whether you’re asking for money or offering to provide it, discussing how much you earn or how much you charge for your services, even the most skilled negotiators can trip up during conversations around money.
Dispel awkwardness around money
First, what we earn does not define our identity. We need to drop some of the stories about self-worth that surround money and instead—we need to start sharing what we are paid in our communities with friends and colleagues to ensure transparency and support across industries. As much as you can, proactively bring people together in your network to have conversations around money.
Linda Davis Taylor is the CEO and Chairman of Clifford Swan Investment Counselors in Pasadena, California. She is a longtime advocate for women’s financial independence and frequently speaks on the topics of wealth and philanthropy. As one of our clients at McPherson Strategies, we helped Linda create Money Talks, which is like a sewing circle or book club gathering to talk about money, and most recently a podcast called Money Talks with LDT which expands on this idea. Instead of playing Mahjong or bridge, Money Circles bring people together to talk about what you’re paid and how to advocate for more, which is helping bring transparency to an area often defined by secrets. Hosting a “Money Talk” is an opportunity to convene the knowledge and experience of your network. It can also create a system of accountability as we individually set out to reach our own personal finance goals. Bring the power of connection into our financial lives and build our confidence and competence as a community—it can be as small as two people.
Here are some jumping off points for kickstarting a conversation about money…. these are also great questions to add to your conversational toolkit to spark deeper and more meaningful discussions in your daily life:
- How did you learn about money growing up?
- What do you think society tells women (or doesn’t tell women) about financial planning?
- When did you start to feel confident in managing your own personal finances?
- What was the most valuable money lesson you learned from a parent or guardian?
- When you envision having ‘enough’ money to live, what is that vision?
- What is your personal reaction to the concept of wealth and growing your money? • Their approach to savings?
- Their perspective on charitable giving? Their perspective on investing?
- If they have a ‘rainy-day’ fund? Emergency fund?
- Their approach to debt?
- Their feelings towards “splurging”?
How to ask for it
Let’s say you’re getting a new business off the ground. How do you ask for funding? Let’s first ask why you need the funding. Now there are these great vehicles, whether it’s Kickstarter or iFundWomen where you can raise that first 20, or 30, or $40,000. Yes, it’s hard work. Don’t get me wrong. But that could get you to a place where you would have some cushion to bring on a programmer or a consultant to create your websites and your collateral. When you have deep, meaningful relationships it’s a lot easier to generate support if you’ve already built the types of relationships you will need to fund your company. Any kind of campaign on a platform like iFundWomen, could be so much more successful if you have already put the time and energy into building meaningful relationships.
Beyond investing, while writing her book The Myth of the Nice Girl, Fran Hauser created what she calls the Nice Girl Army. This is a group of women Hauser had previously mentored and she gathered them together to amplify the message of her book. These gatherings grew into mentoring, networking sessions, parties, and workshops. This is a great example of how what can start as an investment relationship can turn into something much more—these women came to the groups to meet Fran, but they ended up meeting each other and developing relationships in a more streamlined but also incredibly effective way, in groups of 6-8 people rather than one-on-one. In that way, the investor and investee or even mentor and mentee relationship can expand and grow and evolve outside the bounds of what you “expected” the form of that relationship might take. It’s also a great example of how what seems like the best scenario for a relationship (one-on-one) might not actually be the best. Stay open to all of the possibilities of what can happen when you invest in and with people and causes you care about.
About the author:
Susan McPherson is a serial connector, communications expert, and author of The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Relationships at Work.