The Key To Strengthening Your Network

The Berlin Wall was built with a purpose in mind. The high wall, the barbwire at the top, and the “Keep Out” signs plastered everywhere removed all doubt of its intent.  DO NOT ENTER!

Humans are great at building walls, especially the emotional kind that keep people out. It is so easy to throw vulnerability out the widow by putting up emotional brick and mortar along with some barbwire for extra protection.  Sometimes the decision to build barriers is a subtle one.  The result is that people are closed out because of the wall that has been erected.  It’s intent?  DO NOT ENTER!

What goes unnoticed is that there are two sides to wall-building.  If we build that wall they won’t get close enough to hurt us.  The other truth is that they won’t come close enough to help us.

So what does this have to do with strengthening our networks?  One of the keys to building relationships is first understanding that people build barriers around themselves.  The walls vary from person to person, but they are essentially there to prohibit access and to ensure protection. This obviously weakens our ability to network.  The more people trust you, the more they will begin to let you in.  This is true both professionally and personally.

The reasons for building these walls are numerous.  The range goes from misunderstanding, betrayal, insecurity, fear, or mistrust.  We can even use our position and titles to hide our fears and insecurities.

How can these barriers be penetrated? One of the best metaphors I’ve heard for building relationships is to find the loose brick in the wall.1 Expert bricklayers will tell you that every wall has a loose brick.  When interacting with others be alert and look for the loose brick.  That’s the place you gain entrance into their lives.  The loose bricks are their interests, their dreams, their strengths and skills.  It includes their fears, their wounds, their betrayals and disappointments?

The loose brick is about them, not you. You might hit on an experience that wowed them or one that wounded them.

When you discover that loose brick, you have discovered an entrance that let’s you get a peek inside.  Their face will light up and the resulting conversation will be a turning point in the relationship.

Every human life has an entrance that leads to their heart.  And no matter what that entrance is it can be entered effectively if done with an attitude of respect and servant hood.  This is difficult to fake.  Removing the loose bricks will not happen without love, trust, and respect.

So how does it work?  Remember these six steps.

  1. Look for the loose bricks.  What special interests do your associates have, and how could this increase opportunities to deepen your connection?
  2. The truth about loose bricks applies to adults and teens alike.  The brick might be different, but the principle is the same.  Avoid getting hooked by any acting out on the part of the other person. Bypass any defensive reaction and go to the loose brick.  It will change the conversation, and as a result, the relationship. Relationships are changed one conversation at a time.
  3. This loose brick principle will be powerful in helping you build your business and professional connections.
  4. You gain insight on their interests and experiences. That becomes valuable information that can be used at a latter date.  It can be a kind gesture or note regarding something that connects you with what interests them.  It could be in the form of an article that highlights that interest or even an appropriate gift.
  5. Match the depth of the dialogue to the environment.  Don’t just jump to business jargon.  Deeper connections come from finding common ground that’s not work related.
  6. Diffuse heated topics by saying, “Well, that’s one issue we’re not going to solve tonight.” Or say, “I certainly understand your perspective,” minus the “but” that’s sitting on the end of your tongue. You don’t win points by always being right. They may forget your words, but they will remember the way you made them feel.

Obviously the level of connection will differ with each relationship.  Your professional contacts must remain professional.  But they can also be more personal. So look for the loose bricks, because personal connections are stronger than professional connections.

Yes, this is a nice thing to do.  But it pays to be nice :).2 Here are a few bonus questions3 to help find those loose bricks:

  1. What’s your connection to the event? This can lead to a series of questions.
  2. What keeps you busy when you are not at events like this or at work? They will now be revealing a few of their interests and passions.
  3. Are you getting away for the summer? This goes to family and special interests.
  4. Are you involved with any charities? This might lead them to share what they value.
  5. How did you come to be in your line of work? This could get very interesting as they revisit their story.  You will get a lot of clues as to what makes them tic.

Spot the loose brick.

1Brad Wilcox, Tips For Tackling Teenage troubles. (Desert Books).

2The Power Of Nice: How To Conquer The Business World With Kindness. Linda Kaplan  and Robin Koval.

3From Business Cards To Business Relationships: Personal Branding and Profitable Networking Made Easy; Allison Graham


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2 Responses
  1. Alexandra

    Looking for the loose brick takes attention and compassion—you will be shown the deepest hurts or triumphs real peaks and valleys for the person you are meeting. Don’t be afraid to “go there” with them but leave your judgements behind!

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