Teddy bears don’t talk, nor do they form relationships with sentient beings. So how in the heck can they show us how to build a new friendship or a new connection?
Before I answer that question, let’s think about it.
Have you ever felt animosity toward a teddy bear? Likely not, because they’re so darn lovable. Would a teddy bear let you down in a time of need? Doubtful, because they’re dependable.
But have you ever, for even one second, hugged your teddy when you needed a friend? Guilty as charged – there are few who could resist a teddy’s warm, fuzzy charms!
So, in order to make new friends and strengthen ties with existing ones, you have to be like your favorite teddy bear at the core: you must be approachable, dependable, and willing to dish out warm fuzzy feelings whenever necessary! Think you can handle it?
Start the process by asking yourself the following questions:
Are you approachable to others?
It’s easy for cute and cuddly teddy bears to attract new friends, but it’s significantly more challenging for the rest of us. Approachability is the key to this puzzle!
How do you get that key in your hot little hand? Start with a genuine smile; it will get you far during in-person conversations. People won’t feel comfortable approaching you if your facial expression indicates you’ve just swallowed a bushel of lemons.
And when it comes to virtual interactions, at least make sure you’ve created a friendly “About Me” page if you choose to forgo the smile in your avatar or profile pictures. You probably won’t attract many new friends if all of the potentials are terrified to talk to you.
Also, you have to present yourself as a friendly resource in order to boost your approachability. Focus on the value you can provide to others. That means participating in discussions, offering quality ideas, and adding depth to conversations and debates. Acknowledge others’ ideas and they’ll become more comfortable talking to you!
Quick tip: In order to get the full “teddy bear” experience, you have to be genuine. If you aren’t genuine, then you’re not approachable…and that means you’ll have a heck of a time getting people to notice you.
Do you Make Yourself Available to Your Connections?
If I could select only one word to describe my teddy bear, it would be “dependable.” Want to know why? He was consistently there for me when I needed him the most. He never let me down. Plus, I always knew where to find him. Can your connections say the same things about you?
To apply the same concept to your relationship-building efforts, demonstrate your listening abilities on a regular basis. Make it clear that you’re interested in what your new friend is saying. Let them know that you’re dependable by reaching out when necessary and by helping solve issues that arise. Don’t let your connections down if you can help it!
Also, be clear about your contact preferences and point out where and when it’s appropriate for people to connect with you. Is Twitter your preferred outlet? Are you quicker to respond to emails? Express these things on your “About Me” page, have them printed on your business cards, and even verbally communicate them when you can. Your business (or personal) relationships should know how they can find you.
Quick tip: If you frequently use phrases like, “I’ve been too busy” or “I don’t have the time,” then you may be turning away your connections. Shuffle a few tasks and make time for them – or you’ll lose them.
Are You a Pro at Making Your Connections Feel Good? Do You Inspire Them?
Here’s where the warm fuzzy feelings come into play! Teddy bears won’t talk us down from tricky situations, per se, but they are quite good at improving our moods and boosting our spirits. So, how do we get to that point in our own relationships?
For starters, give back to your audience by interacting with them on a meaningful level. Acknowledge particularly thoughtful comments on your blog, retweet or respond to relevant feedback on Twitter, and write content that motivates them to take action. I’m much more likely to maintain a relationship with someone if they continually inspire me. That’s what friends do.
Also, don’t be shy about crediting your connections if they assisted you in some way. For example, maybe one of them Tweeted something that got you thinking about a blog post topic, or perhaps several of them responded to a poll question you asked on your website. Give them a friendly shout-out via your preferred network and let them know you’re appreciative. This goes a long way!
Quick tip: Trim the “I” talk in your interactions – “you” is much better because it diverts the focus to your connection. Relationships are give and take, sure, but there’s only so much people will want to hear about your life before they wish to discuss their own! You could be turning people away without even realizing it.
Have you finished quizzing yourself and grading your responses? Good.
If you didn’t do as well as you’d like, take some time to reevaluate your current relationship-building strategies. What’s missing? What could you do better?
You may be lacking if:
- You only interact with people to serve your own needs. This method isn’t relationship building – it’s sucking up for personal gain. Knock it off! No one likes a kiss-ass. Instead, start interacting with people because you actually have something to say. Write thoughtful responses to your peers’ blogs, help others solve problems by composing (or sharing) valuable content, and take an interest in what others are saying.
- You’re always too busy to respond to emails and inquiries. I don’t need to tell you that relationships are about give and take…or do I? Intentionally or accidentally ignoring your connections is a good way to make them lose interest in you. If your life is that chaotic, then maybe it’s time to get organized or to hire an assistant to handle your smaller tasks. Otherwise, find the time to connect on your own!
- You’re stuck in “self-promotion” mode. It’s totally fine to announce your new blog post or share a sale via social media or email, but only if you mix it in with engagement and with relevant content from others. To start building connections, you’ve got to engage with other people and share their articles in addition to your own. Here’s a solid starting point: try sharing another blogger’s post and then strike up a conversation with them on Twitter to express your thoughts. It’s all about those warm fuzzies, remember? Just keep it real and mean every word you say, otherwise you’ll sound fake.
And remember, unlike your teddy bear…
You can’t be a wallflower!
We live in an age of technology, so now even the most reclusive of introverts and the shyest of wallflowers can engage in relationship-building techniques. Work on your approachability, open your heart and mind to new friends, and then get out there and motivate like it’s your job.
That is your job, after all. Right?
What strategies do you use to build relationships? Are there any areas you struggle to keep up with? Did you also have a precious teddy bear to “hear” your hopes and dreams? I’d love to hear your feedback!
Jill Tooley (@JillTooley) spends the majority of her time at Quality Logo Products, managing the content department and the company blog (and occasionally cursing out WordPress when it misbehaves). She enjoys weaving her favorite things – like Dwight Schrute or Buddy the Elf – into content she writes, and she’s usually always down for a hug.