We’d spent the last five days reconnecting as a family, completely dark from any semblance of social networking while on this cruise to Mexico. Normally, it’s cool to meet other travelers, but this trip, we needed rest.
The final evening’s entertainment was a magic show.
My son, Sebastian, was lucky enough to be selected as the “assistant.” I wasn’t shocked by his hammy performance (he comes by that naturally). It’s what happened next that intrigued me.
As we exited the auditorium, people approached my son and began waving and congratulating him from across the room. He had stories about everyone. “Oh those are the women who taught me Mexican dominos at the pool, they live in Bri-ain,” trying to work his Liverpudlian accent, “but are really from Daaaalllas,” adding a drawl.
“You remember Abe, he calls himself the sausage king. He’s half deaf but likes to play the drums.”
The pattern continued as we hopped on the elevator. “She’s the mommy of the girl I played ping-pong with on Tuesday.” And then on the way to dinner. And then again in the customs line the next day. This kid had connections.
The truth is most kids make friends more easily than grown-ups. We start being open to new connections and grow ourselves out of it.
What Kids Can Teach Us About Networking
Kids can teach us a lot about networking. Try working a few of their approaches into your networking.
- Kids have no agenda. They don’t think, “Gee, if I meet this girl, maybe she’ll introduce me to her brother with the Pokemon shirt. He may have a card in his collection I need.” Nope, they just join in and see what happens. They build relationships for the sake of relationships.
- Kids are open to new relationships. If someone introduces themselves, they don’t question motive. Kids don’t wonder, “What’s this guy really want?” They get past the small talk sooner. “Yeah, my math teacher’s really mean too … but maybe it’s me, I hate math.”
- Kids play. You’re going to meet a lot more people playing in the pool than on the deck. Kids get in the pool. Play leads to natural interaction and builds relationships.
- Kids share toys. Most kids are taught to share their toys, and doing so leads to friendships. Grown-ups lose this instinct. I’m always amazed in my fitness class by grown-ups fight over weights that don’t even belong to them. You can only use one set at a time, but everyone likes to have choices in front of them, just in case. Asking the person one mat over to “borrow” their weights typically leads to a dirty look. No one proactively offers. Most grown-ups don’t follow the same rules they teach their kids.
- Kids follow-up. When they meet someone they like, they attach more quickly. “That was fun, are you going to the kid’s club after dinner? Wanna meet at the pool again tomorrow?” They don’t call it networking. They have no system, they just ask.
- Kids bounce back. – No one likes to feel rejected. But most kids seem to accept casual slights for what they are. They don’t over-analyze. “What happened to John?” “Oh, he didn’t want to play anymore.” They move on. Which of these approaches do you need to try in your networking?