When I was a kid, I made several trips to Crossroads Village; a restored turn of the century town where you could ride an old railroad and visit historic homes and old-town commercial buildings. My favorite part of the entire town was the general store. I was fascinated by wall to ceiling shelves of merchandise, antique toy souvenirs and 10¢ old-fashioned candy sticks yet there was more to the fascination for me. In the general store I felt connected to a magical and energetic meeting place of the past. I could imagine store clerks greeting town’s people by name as they chatted about the latest merchandise and happening around the town. At some time or another, everyone from the town would visit the store and because of this, the store clerk would know everyone. Without much effort the store clerk would be responsible for spreading news, event promotion, introducing new members of town, and even match-making. I am willing to bet in the 19th century through mid 20th century towns all over the world, when a store clerk from the general store passed it would a tremendous loss for many. From memories of warm greetings to an understanding of individual needs, the clerk would be honored for their efforts of social responsibility.
Flash forward to today. Mass competition and opportunities for consumption of goods has closed the door to the general store as we know it. As these stores have closed who has taking on the hidden role and community responsibilities of the clerk? The answer is NO ONE. What are the possible reasons for this? Two immediate thoughts come to mind.
1. Without a general meeting place where everyone flows through at some point or another it might seem like an impossible task.
2. With population increases, we somehow no longer see value in knowing everyone in our communities; without this perceived value the practice of “thoughtful” introduction becomes a relic of past.
What Do I Mean by Thoughtful Introduction?
Thoughtful introductions take place through a series of social interactions.
Interaction One: You know someone’s needs, wants, passions, missions, goals and/or struggles. I imagine some people are thinking right now, who has time for that? My answer: EVERYONE DOES! Often you can pick up on these things with a quick glance over an online profile. Or by asking one or all of these questions: What are you working on these days? What are you passionate about it? What are you into?
Sidenote: Remember my rant in Socially ILL about the question “What do you do?” I recommend the above list of questions to replace “What do you do?” if you want to make social interaction more interesting and enjoyable while simultaneously improving your chances for connection.
Interaction Two: You repeat the steps in Interaction One with everyone you meet.
Interaction Three: Upon meeting or learning about someone new you ask yourself, “ Who do I know that would benefit by meeting this person?”
Interaction Four: After answering the question in Interaction Three, you facilitate an introduction with one or more points of connection. For example: You might introduce people that share a similar passion for a cause, who can trade skills each other needs, and/or just seem to be alike and might enjoy each other’s company.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point in the chapter called ‘The Law of the Few” he talks about three types of people: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. I believe the process of thoughtful introduction helps you develop the skills of all three. Obviously as you practice thoughtful introduction you become a Connector. As you listen and learn about the topics that others are passionate about you increase your knowledge base and become a bit of Maven. When you make the introduction there is no need to over-sell one person to another. You might feel it necessary to state something like “I don’t know either of you well enough to be sure of your connection, but my feeling is you should know each other and hope something good comes from doing so.” It is this kind of sincerity that separates a good salesperson from an exceptional salesperson.
In addition to increasing your social skill set, there are more reasons to practice thoughtful introduction. This type of social responsibility is the exact kind energy required to increase empathy and community and to decrease isolation. If none of those reasons appeal to you and you waiting for me to tell you how practicing thoughtful introduction will personally benefit you then here is what you been waiting for. When you make thoughtful introductions for others, it comes back to you! As you do it, others are inspired to do it as well. It is a pay-it-forward and it ALWAYS comes back to you. If you want to double your odds that it will, teach others to do the same.
I have thought long and hard about who can fill the shoes of the general store clerk of the past. When it finally hit me, I was shocked at the answer. I think bloggers like me are in the best position to do so. And here is why:
1. We are passionate thought leaders that invite people to think, comment , share and have conversations.
2. We have the power to build large communities of people online.
3. We are more than half-way there! We are already known for spreading news and promoting events, dare I say in most cases what we share is self serving?? Why not balance out the offering with a socially responsible act of facilitating thoughtful introductions?
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
I am going to call on my blogger friends and reach out to bloggers that I admire and believe have it in them to make a greater difference than they are already making.
To make it easier for everyone to practice thoughtful introductions, I suggest using the tools of social media. Make introductions through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. On Twitter I started the hashtag – #CTC. CTC stands for Connect Through Conversation meant to encourage two people to connect offline to explore mutual interest.
Examples of Tweet Using #CTC:
Whether you are blogger or not, whether you are using online tools or prefer offline means of communication, you can practice thoughtful introductions. As you do, please share your ideas and stories with me.
NOTE: If you look up #CTC now there is a lot of random use for it. Hopefully, we can overcome this?