Finding overlaps and similarities in interests will create energetic bonds that speed up the development of the friendship. This allows you to move from contact to friendship much faster.
Here's what I do. Whenever I meet someone new for the first time, I mentally pretend that I've already known them for years. This is a great trick to help you feel at ease and to make networking feel more natural. And it's so simple to do.We act differently with the people that we know than with strangers. With strangers, we're guarded and self-conscious and uncomfortable. With old friends, we're open and genuine and authentic — we're ourselves. And when we're comfortable and at ease, we allow others to feel comfortable themselves. This little trick neutralizes unseen tensions and anxieties and it deescalates power dynamics.
But what do you say? What do you talk about? How do you keep the conversation going so that it doesn't fall flat? The typical advice is to ask questions and to talk about the other person's interests, but I completely disagree. That's not additive and it does not help move the relationship forward.
What does help is to look for and to find overlaps of interests — those places where you can mutually exchange ideas that are interesting and stimulating for both of you. To do that effectively, you need to start with you. You need to understand your own interests first.
Here's an exercise that I use during my consulting sessions. Make a list of all the things that you like to do that make you, you. Pay attention to the topics that you naturally gravitate to — all the things that you read about and follow on your own time. This exercise will become the foundation for starting your own personal CRM system (more on this later.)
Here's my chart. These are topics that I'm fairly fluent in and can comfortably banter back-and-forth in any conversation.
When I combine these two approaches — acting as if I already know the person while talking about the things that we're both interested in — I begin the process of turning a contact into a friendship.