Chris Brogan posted today on the importance of building relationships with folks online before asking any favors of them, and it sort of pinged on some things I’ve been thinking about, too.
Here’s Chris’s post, The Distance of Your Ask.
His use of the word “ask” refers in his post, of course, to the favors we sometimes ask of each other, and especially the favors that we are hoping to obtain from people we know of online and WANT to meet, those whom we set out to have a relationship with, usually with some sort of self-serving end in mind.
You know, “networking.”
Sure, a lot of times I just want to meet someone so I can tell them I think they’re awesome, and that someone out there likes and admires their work. It can be really hard to know that sometimes, and I know I always appreciate it when someone says similar things to me.
But sometimes I want to meet someone because I want to collaborate on them with a future project, and I hope they remember me and invite me, or will think to refer someone to me or my blog when a subject I write about comes up.
And sometimes I am approached by PR people, who want me to build awareness of their product. Sometimes they try to build a relationship first, sometimes they don’t. Mostly they don’t.
So what’s the way to build that vaunted “relationship” with someone, to create lines of reciprocity and trust?
I don’t mean ask in the sense that ask means “request,” but askin the sense that ask means “inquire.”
Yes, we all need to have a nice, short, pithy little elevator speech, just so we can locate ourselves helpfullly on the internal mind map of whomever we are speaking to. But then we really need to stop with the declarative sentences that begin with “I” and start with the inquisitive sentences that start with those six little words journalists love so well:
Who was that you were just talking to? What are you working on now? Where did you eat lunch? When is your next product/book launch? Why are you wearing that button? How did you get to interview that guy last month? Because that was great!
You get the idea.
I think we spend a lot of time worrying about what we are going to say about ourselves, what we should write in our press releases, what words will have more POP in our elevator speeches, when we might be better served by cooling it a little on ourselves and asking other folks about themselves.
If you’re like me, and a little nervous of making conversation with people you’ve just met (and especially those you have admired from afar), this method has the added bonus of making your end of the conversation much, much easier.
It’s this meaning of the word “ask” that I try to have emblazoned on the inside of my forehead when I’m in challenging social situations (read: all of them); this meaning of the word “ask” that I’d like to scrawl in black in on the palm of my hand when I get around new people.
So you might find that helpful too: Ask, before you Make An Ask.