After the initial excitement of meeting someone dissipates, it is often followed by the well-meaning intention of “let’s stay in touch”, but most often, neither party does, and the possibility of a relationship fades.
Meeting someone is just the kickoff. What matters comes next: putting in the time and attention to allow that seed of a relationship to grow. But how do you do that while also avoiding being a pest or stressing yourself out with more to-do’s?
Let’s first agree on some basic principles of creating a framework for successful and enjoyable relationship nurturing. Please repeat after me: “I solemnly swear to build meaningful and genuine relationships that are reflective of who I am authentically. I won’t force it, nor be someone who I am not. I won’t seek gain for myself, but rather, view each person as an opportunity to challenge my curiosities, learn, find commonalities, and add value to his/her journey in some way. I can do this because I know that givers find more success and fulfillment in the long run than those who seek a tit-for-tat dynamic, or those who are out just for themselves.”
Okay, now we’re ready!
I’ve compiled a list of my favorite tips, tricks, and tools that have helped me to become a master connector, and more so, to enjoy deeply the hybrid art and science of nurturing relationships. As with anything, you want to find a style and rhythm that feels right for you, and that caters to each individual relationship.
Maximize those interim moments
In your free minutes between meetings, calls, or while commuting, send a quick call, text, or email to someone with whom you’ve not spoken in a while. It can be to simply say hello and to let them know they were on your mind.
Make “reconnect” files in your calendar
If you don’t have a system like a CRM that tracks relationships for you, a free and easy hack is to create a color-coded folder that recurs on a monthly basis in your online calendar. I call mine “reconnect” and put up to ten names inside of it (perhaps with a small note about who they are and their email, or you can leave that in their contact file in your address book). When it pops up once a month, scroll through to see if any names leap out as someone to whom you feel inclined to reach out. If it’s someone whose name you want to see more readily each month, make her her own recurring file in your calendar for monthly rotation that is in the same color code.
Reach out on birthdays and milestones
It has never been easier to remember the important moments in the lives of others than with the tools we have at our disposal today. By connecting with contacts on Facebook and LinkedIn, you can know daily whose birthday it is and send them best wishes. I also put birthdays in my calendar on an annual rotation and reach out by email, text, or call. If you’re looking for bonus points, use a service like Bond or Send Out Cards to send a handwritten note effortlessly.
Since birthdays are just once a year, also reach out for the big moments like a new job or promotion, a first round of funding or company exit, the birth of a child, or anniversary. This also includes the challenging and hard times that are bound to come; don’t be silent in those moments, but send a thoughtful message.
Invite them to things you’re already attending
Time is one thing we all have in limited supply. We know it’s important to connect with people who don’t fall into our close circle, but it can feel overwhelming to carve out the time. A great trick is to integrate your network into things you’re already doing. Invite them to see the game or show you’re attending, offer a ticket to an event you love, take a yoga class together, or ask them to be your guest at a party. Or, if you’re already planning a meal or coffee where they could join, send over an invite. Whether or not it’s accepted, your asking goes a long way.
Make value-add introductions
When you connect, ask what challenges your contact is facing or to what they’re most looking forward. As you’re able, offer to make an introduction to someone in your network who has the resource or knowledge they need, or who might accelerate them.The bonus is that once you get the buy in from the third party, you’re getting an opportunity to help both of your contacts and nurture both relationships simultaneously. You’ll also find generally that this results in both parties asking each other how they know you, and then singing your praises. This continues to cement your status as someone on whom people can rely and go to for help.
Host curated groups
I’ll often think of a handful of people who should know each other, but haven’t met (or in some cases, haven’t connected in a while). A great way to get these folks together efficiently and effectively is to host a casual gathering where they can all interact. They win by meeting, and you win by connecting them and seeing them all at once.
Reach out when traveling
If you travel, reach out to your contacts in that city and see them if time permits. If you type into the search bar on Facebook “My friends who live in (city)” it will pull up everyone who lives there. It’s a great way to remember quickly and reach out. Worst case, send a note to say that time doesn’t permit meeting on this trip, but you thought of them and wanted to check in.
Send them great press leads
An easy way to look in-the-know and offer value is to sign up for HARO and scan their daily emails for any press outlets which are seeking insights from experts. If any align with someone you know, email it to them!
Connect on social media
Social media allows for a passive digest (I call it a living, breathing contact management platform that others update for you) of what’s going on in the lives of your network. Like, retweet, and comment to keep them top-of-mind, and applaud their successes as well as be a support for them in the harder moments which they share.
As with any habit, it takes time and intention to make these practices feel natural. Consider choosing one method a month and trying it out. If you enjoy it, keep doing it, and then add another. If not, let that one go and give a different method a try. Also, it’s helpful to remember that not all relationships will click, nor will you want to nurture them all. You get to choose.
This article recently appeared on Forbes.