Creating Friendship In Your Business Network

Networking has clear benefits for your career. People in your network can connect you with other influential people, sales leads, and training opportunities. What isn’t so clear- though it should be- is something even more valuable your network offers: friendship. This isn’t a small perk, either. Almost seventy percent of workers say they are more engaged and work harder when they have friends at work.
How can an entrepreneur make friends in their professional network? For office workers their new best friend could be in the next office, but finding time to chat with your professional contacts is difficult. The trick is make the most of every encounter. Follow these simple (though not always easy) tips to create true friendship with your professional fellows.
1. Start small. Suggesting a group outing to the movies ten minutes after you’ve been introduced will make most people uncomfortable. Remember that you and this person are almost strangers in the beginning and plan your friendly overtures accordingly. Hold the elevator if you see them coming. Bring a couple Danishes to your meeting. Offer a spare pen if theirs runs out. The key is to establish a baseline positive impression of you while at the same time building familiarity.
2. Offer help before being asked. Your colleague is also trying to network with you, so there’s a strong incentive for them to try and “tough it out” through any problems that may come up. Disarm them with a friendly offer of help before they ask. For example, if the person has a presentation planned but the projector won’t work, you could assist in trouble-shooting to help get them running on time. It’s important to keep your offer friendly and tamp down any resentment if your would-be friend refuses. Also, only try to help when you know you have skills to lend. Letting your ego talk for you won’t win any friends.
3. Listen and remember. Often, people ask questions to set themselves up for a monologue. “Have you ever been to X city? Well, when I was there…” You aren’t getting anything from that conversation and neither is your potential friend. Ask questions about their work and any shared interests, then actually listen to the answers. Remember what they talk about and incorporate small references to it in later conversations. This will make your new friend feel heard and valued.
4. Know when to push for more and when to pull back. You won’t become close with everyone in your professional network. Pay attention to the other person’s social cues so you can tell if they’re interested in being actual friends or if they’d rather keep it professional, and respect that choice. You can’t change their minds by pushing, but you might drive other potential friends away.
We spend a third of our lives at work, so why not make it a little more pleasant to be there? Let yourself make a few friends in your network and you’ll all be better off.

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