Sometimes my husband Matt accuses me of being anti-social. Which is weird, because I’ve always been a social person. If you looked at any of my report cards you’d see that nearly all of them said “talks to much.” My grandpa called me Chatty Cathy. In my brain, I think of myself as really quite social. But just yesterday, Matt and I were walking into a mall, a guy was walking out, we did that kind of dance you do when you are trying to make room for the other person and they’re doing the same, but instead you just get in each other’s way, we all said “sorry” “excuse me” and when we got inside I said “that was Noah J., Class of ’93.” Matt gave me the side eye and said “what?! Why didn’t you say hi?!”
Truth is, I’m not sure. I haven’t seen him since maybe a year or two out of high school. And I actually really liked him. So why wouldn’t I have said hello?
Sorry Noah – and a belated “hello.” And also, don’t judge my hair, it was a vacation day…so…
I go in phases. After my 20 year high school reunion which was epic if I do say so myself, I never shied away from saying hi when I saw people. I think I made a subconscious decision that regardless of what I looked like at that particular moment, people who know me realize I can clean up better than…say…what my hair looked like yesterday. But sometimes it feels like too much work to simply say hi. When I’m overwhelmed, or things are hard at the moment, it can feel daunting to wave at someone at the grocery store that I haven’t seen in ten, fifteen, twenty years. You never know what you’ll get – they might want to talk, and talk, and talk, and talk. Or they might be a-sholes. I think too that sometimes my willingness to reach out to others is determined by how I’m currently feeling about myself. Or depending on whether or not I’m wearing mascara.
Fast forward to today. I had lunch with an old friend from high school. I’m working on a project that I am so excited and passionate about (more on that in the weeks to come) and I wanted to get input, feedback, and to talk about her possible involvement. She mentioned someone from our high school who would be a really good person with whom to connect. After we parted ways, I told Matt about him, and he pointed out reasons why this would be a great connection that I hadn’t even thought of.
Let me just say, as an aside, my husband is ridiculous when it comes to connecting. He will stop people anywhere if he recognizes them from work, the gym, high school, etc. He is happy to chat with old colleagues and classmates. He loves networking. I’m jealous of his ability and eagerness to connect and network with enthusiasm anytime he needs to, or when he passes someone he recognizes. #networkinggoals
After talking to him, I got so excited about this potential new connection. My brain started spinning with ideas of other people I need to reach out to. People I’ve mentioned this project to, and have planned to meet up with, but haven’t. People who will have good suggestions and feedback. I got home from the gym tonight and started firing off texts and emails. And what always surprises me (but it would be good for me to remember) is that people are almost always responsive and eager to meet up with me again.
When I find someone with whom I can connect, I love it. I cherish those connections. Even when it’s someone I see very rarely, I so enjoy seeing them again and revel in the connection we share.
Finding new connections or reaching out to current connections for help, however, is not my forte at all. I think some of this comes with being a woman – oh my goodness, book recommendation, for really amazing insight on this topic you must read “How Women Rise” by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith. It’s fascinating and horrifying and eye opening. But one of the topics is women’s unwillingness to really use our connections to further our own careers and/or initiatives. So part of this I probably come by naturally. But at the end of the day, my hesitancy to find new connections or use the ones I have is really just more of the inactivity I referenced yesterday, right? Well that, and fear, obviously.
I don’t think I can have the year or decade I’m hoping to have without being an aggressive connector. It’s surprising I haven’t realized this before. Matt would roll his eyes at this and not say (but absolutely think) “I told you so.” I need to be finding new people with whom to connect, and I need to be reaching out to all of the amazingly smart and successful people I already have in my network. I’ll have to get over the traditionally female view that I’d be “using people” to get ahead. I’m always so happy to help connect others. Why wouldn’t my current connections feel the same about me? At some point I also have to decide that what I’m hoping to accomplish is far more important that what people think of me.
So, if you happen to see me out somewhere, and I appear to see you – expect me to say hello. Even if it’s a bad hair day and I’m sans mascara (the horror).