Here’s How to Strengthen Your Network

Connected people are happier and more successful

People of North Dakota Photo: Getty Images

Every day is rich with ways to make meaningful connections with other people. Which is why it’s a missed opportunity when we leave a having only hung out with the person we arrived with. “After all” we tell ourselves, – only half believing it – we tagged along to the gathering to be with the person we went with. Yet brushing off the memory of the interesting-looking folks joking around in the kitchen cannot quite quell the sinking feeling of a chance missed.

Important opportunities and significant pleasures are gained through meaningful connections with new people. But guys need to push against a cultural myth that can trip us up: that powerful men are socially self-sufficient and don’t need other people much at all. James Bond and Tarzan have never been portayed kicking back with their friends, for instance. This makes it easy to be fooled by the idea that seeking connection with others is a male weakness rather than a strength. In fact, precisely the opposite is true.

Often guys leave not just a party but also our last job, a previous neighborhood, even that carpentry evening course where we made the wobbly shelves, barely noticed or missed; the people we met become more of a half remembered face than a potentially much loved friend or colleague. Yet evidence proves that sharing experiences leads not only to significant human connection but to greater achievement, too.

Recent research for instance, reveals that the perceived difficulty of climbing a hill is significantly reduced if we have a friend stand at our side as we survey the incline and make our assessment. And perhaps even more importantly, the challenge of the climb declines by just thinking about our friend before making our assessment. The person we care about does not even need to be physically present. Our connection to others only needs to be brought to mind in order to benefit from their confidence-boosting support. Life’s challenges are much less overwhelming when we have friends on our side.

Three guaranteed ways to instantly connect with others

  1. Find common ground: Only by listening closely when we first meet someone can we pick up on details of their life story, which may connect to our own. Flagging up that you also have an adopted sibling or have let your gym membership lapse is a way of creating a kick-starter bond through shared experience. If finding such a link proves difficult, open up the conversation to those universal truths that so many share, such as frustrations at work, or having a weird family. Never lose sight of this fundamental truth: people often have far more in common than things that make them different. The task is to find that common ground.


  1. Be self revealing: Revealing something significant about your life, even if it’s only that you think your boss is a jerk, is a helpful way to connect with others. Such self-exposure implies you are open and trusting of the person with whom you are trying to connect. You are also revealing more of your true self than the superficial image or mask you wear which ultimately doesn’t help with connections to anyone.


  1. Sincerely thank people: Making people feel appreciated is an instant connection builder. To show gratitude it is easy to text or send an email, but it’s more effective to take the time to see them face to face. Making eye contact while also explaining how their generosity affected you will create a real opportunity to connect. Or if you can’t meet up, make a phone call. “It was great to meet those guys in kitchen of your party,” you might say. “One of them even introduced me to his cool younger sister and we’ve got a date next week!”

Here’s How to Strengthen Your Network