How to win friends and influence people
Making friends has always been hard for me.
In college I had maybe 5 or 10 good friends.
In the first few years of Wall Street it wasn’t much better.
It took me until I was divorced at age thirty to figure out the power of friends and having a network.
Once I got this, my networking took off.
Before I go into what I did to fix my problems, let me tell you about the mistakes I made, and what I learnt about making real friends who will change your life.
Fear: I was afraid of reaching out to people, about trying to make friends.
I was afraid that they would think that I needed them and I was afraid of being rejected or looking strange.
I wish I had gone to more work events / dinner, gone to more friend’s parties, spent more time with people rather than my screens.
I thought I was being cool by skipping these things.
Lesson: it’s ok to reach out, its ok to ask for help and its ok to look stupid.
Here’s what Amanda says: trust people, connect with them, put yourself out there, be vulnerable with others, if you can overcome your fear you will end up with a much deeper relationship with people, with your friends, with your clients.
Anxiety: When I started out in the real world, I had so much anxiety. I couldn’t think past the next few hours. I literally was thinking day to day, rather than thinking about how to build a network of friends.
Why was this a problem ?
Because the anxiety made everything transactional for me. I was just looking to the next moment to see what this person could do for me, rather than what I could do for them.
If someone couldn’t help me right away I would ignore them and go look somewhere else for immediate gratification. It took a while, and some success for me to lose the anxiety. Things like having a family and meditation helped.
Losing touch: When I was in my late twenties, I eventually made a lot of friends, but circumstances change, you leave jobs, start new ones, have new priorities.
I wish I had stayed in touch with a lot of those people. It doesn’t require much to keep a relationship strong. An occasional email, a call every 4-6 months.
I let a lot of good friends slip by because I couldn’t be bothered to stay in touch. Not doing this meant that every few years I had re-create my network.
Advice to a younger me:
Begin now: Don’t be afraid of failure and what people will think. If you look stupid, that’s fine. Who cares. It doesn’t matter what other people think.
Push forward, make the first connection, then the next, then the next.
Make a list of the types of people you want to get to know, be strategic and systematic. You can choose where and with whom to build your network with. Once you have a list of people you want to get to know, reach out to them. Use LinkedIn, find their email, get someone to refer you. Make contact.
Ask questions and listen carefully: Be curious, encourage other people to talk about themselves. In any meeting or encounter, try to ask open ended questions about the other person. Then genuinely listen and pay attention.
People want to know if you really care and understand their problem.
Just by listening you will get a lot smarter, and that is the main goal when you are starting. Have real interest in other people and what they do. Figure out what is important to them, and what they care about ? How can you help them ?
Add Value: Now that you have been listening carefully, ask yourself what could you do to help this person ? There is always a way to add value to other people. There may be people you can introduce them to, information you can share, an event you can invite them to.
I try to send people in my network something every few weeks that I think they will find useful, this is especially useful when you are trying to grow or deepen a relationship.
Some examples of what I send: a link to a story they may want to read, an email I found interesting, an introduction to another person that they would enjoy talking to.
Stay in touch: Send occasional thank you cards, send Christmas / New Year cards.
We live in a digital age, so you can very quickly differentiate yourself by sending physical cards.
No one else does it, this is why it makes all the difference. Don’t just do this with your network of friends, but also after a meeting or interview. Send the other person a thank you card. Everyone else will either do nothing or maybe send a short email.
In 3 months time, who do you think they will remember. I started doing this when I was 35 and it was a game changer.
So go out there and be genuine, be interested and interesting. Really care about other people – that is the trick to making friends. Have friends is what will change your life, the opportunities you see, the things you accomplish and what you learn.
I’d love to hear about your experiences, so please drop me a note or comment on how you made friends and how friends changed your life.
I hope these quick tips were helpful to you.
We discuss a bunch of other secrets and insights on how to get ahead on Wall Street on our private weekly email letter.