Do you find yourself with only a few friends? A limited number of people who you'd drop everything to go help?
I know I'm that way. I keep a close number of friends and HUGE number of acquaintances (I call them all friends because I struggle with where the line between friend and acquaintance is). The odd part is that it has nothing to do with a desire to have more or less friends. It simply has to do with the fact that I'm terrible when it comes to connecting with people. This may sound odd coming from me. I'm an author, a sought after public speaker, I get consulting gigs based on my reputation, and I'm CONSTANTLY connecting with people. After all, among other things... I run the biggest invite-only value investors slack group. Yet I honestly don't connect with people at a deeper level very well. Over the years and especially in the last year or so I've started to examine this more closely. My wife Robin will tell you that I practice eye contact with her (No, I'm not kidding... I even remember the day I told her I was going to start practicing it with her).
I have also been reading a lot of books about connecting with people in both the in-person format as well as the online or written format. I read and reviewed Creativity Inc which touched on the subject, I also recently read two other books that dove more deeply into the subject. The first is Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior- this is sort of an academic review of how we connect with each other, it takes a more precise or actionable perspective than books like Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. So if you really want actionable academic insights... go with Subliminal.
For a more action oriented book - Good in a Room is the book for you. You can literally skip every sales book you've ever thought about purchasing and just get this one. Stephanie covers every aspect of networking and connecting with people in person, online, and how to move from online to in-person with ease and without looking like a dufus or looking too slimey. I was really impressed with her ability to convey what works in meetings, how to handle tough situations (in other words you're going to screw something up and Stephanie addresses this over and over again). This is seriously the best selling/networking book I've read (and I've read a lot). I'm not a natural social connector or relationship person, I have to work at every interaction and Stephanie's book has given me some insights and pointers on how to not work as hard at it and be incredibly successful.
Here's the first one for you to try out, I've done this a few times and learned so MUCH. For every human interaction (regardless of where the interaction takes place) on a given day or week, ask yourself a single question such as...
- What would help them the most?
- What is this person feeling?
- Are they reacting to someone else or is this an original idea?
Basically any question you think a more empathetic person would know the answer to and ask yourself this same question for EVERY human interaction you have... the grocery store, a meeting with your boss, a meeting with a colleague, and so on. I've already learned so much about my subliminal opinions about people it is amazing!!
Whatever you do, buy Good in a Room, you can also buy Subliminal for more depth. You could buy Creativity Inc as well as there are lots of great things in there. As for the tidbits about connecting with people, this TED talk sums up the guidance...