Knowing what to do with your six degrees of separation can turn your contacts into purposeful connections
“It’s such a small world, isn’t it?”
You’ve heard the phrase dozens of times.
Perhaps you’ve even used it yourself after getting to know someone, and being surprised to learn that you have mutual friends or are connected in some other way. But have you ever really stopped to consider how understanding this “small world” can help you achieve your business and professional goals?
Social scientists have been trying to figure out these social networks since the late 1960s. What they found was that most people in the world can be connected to one another by six degrees of separation. All of the people who we know – our work colleagues, old high school buddies, and social friends – make up our first degree of separation.
In turn, all the people they know become the second degree of separation from us. And so on, until we reach six degrees and can connect with just about anyone on the planet.
That’s good in theory. But how do we put this theory into practice and make these “small world” moments translate into real social capital? How can these relationships that you’ve established help get you in the door of your target customers?
In short, you must be proactive if you are to truly maximize the power in the connection and to get the most from the interaction. Here’s one simple approach:
Step 1: Stay in the Moment
Always be present when you’re meeting people. Pay attention to what might be going on in their world.
Step 2: Always Mention Names of People, Places, and Events
Mentioning specific names gives the other person the opportunity to respond with the possibility a small world connection.
Step 3: Ask Connecting Questions
Here are just a few examples of good connecting questions:
- “Do you know Susie Jones over at XYZ company?
- “You seam to be in a great mood – Do you mind if I ask why?
- Have you ever been to the island of Kauai?
When you ask questions like these, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can make the connection. Of course, this approach is only as good your ability to “take the moment and dance with it.”
Now, here’s a true story that should clearly illustrate the Small World Theory:
I was attending the Home and Patio show one year at the Indiana Fairgrounds when I noticed a young lady sitting at a table and signing autographs. The signs around the table identified her as Bryn Chapman, the current Ms. Indiana. As you’d suspect, she was smiling, meeting people, and sharing her passion for a worthy cause.
I stopped, said hello, and after 4 minutes (of which I spoke for one minute and listened to her for the other three minutes), I ended our nice visit by saying, “Bryn, It was pleasure meeting you. Thanks for your time. Great cause. And good luck in all that you do.”
Now, fast forward six weeks. I was facilitating a training for a private company. The participants’ instructions were “tell us who you are, what you do, and the thing that you’re most proud of.”
As we were going around the room, one gentleman stood up and said “My name is Dan Chapman. I’m the marketing director for U-Build it Corporation. And, I’m most proud of my little girl who is currently Ms. Indiana.”
Now think about it. At that very moment, I had two options… One was to thank Dan and then go onto to the next person for their introduction.
But as you would imagine, that’s not what I did. In the spirit of taking the moment and dancing with it, I steered our conversation as follows:
“Dan, I think I met your daughter!” Of course, this now gets his attention, which is the first step in the connection process.
He then looks to me for further explanation and I continue…
“Dan, I was at the fairgrounds the other day and met a young lady who said she was the current Ms. Indiana. She’s a music major at Indiana University, came in 10th in the Ms. America contest, and was signing autographs for many young aspiring Ms. Indiana’s at the Fair. And, her name was Bryn Chapman. My gosh. I did meet your daughter!”
He then says, “It’s such a small world, isn’t it?”
I respond, “Actually, it’s not,” (this now gets his attention a second time) “unless you and I know what to do with the information. And, the fact is, Dan, that we do.”
Unfortunately, many people who have a prime opportunity to take advantage of this “small world” phenomenon just don’t know what to do with the knowledge. But by taking simple steps to seize the moment and recall previous information at the point of interaction, we can create connections that help make our encounters more memorable.
Making the most from your interactions comes down to having a strategy in place. So, the next time someone says, “It’s such a small world, isn’t it?” you’ll know how to capitalize on that connectivity to grow your community of business allies.
It’s not a small world. It’s what you do to connect the dots that makes it seem that way.
After all, the power really is in the connection.
Ron is the Chief Relationship Officer and founder of the Relationship Strategies Institute, a global training and relationship development company that provides innovative, effective and relevant programs and systems for corporations, organizations, and associations.
To learn more about the value of relationship development, get in touch with Ron.