To forge truly authentic relationships, be human to everyone you meet

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Connections supercharge careers. They are the undercurrent that powers progress. Life’s biggest lessons and opportunities are found in your connections with others. Building and sustaining many solid, strong relationships is central to our survival.

“Opportunities come to you because someone was thinking of you at the exact time they came across something that was relevant for you — whether it’s a job, or a deal, or an introduction, or a technology that could help your business, ” says Patrick Ewers, early LinkedIn director, and relationship-building expert.

To forge better relationships with anyone, you need to move from just acquaintances to close connections.

As technology advances, we continue to spread our attention across multiple screens, problems, and people — often all at once. Making deeper and authentic connections has become one of the scarcest resources — and one of the most valuable skills for thriving in the 21st century.

There’s a difference between knowing someone and getting to know someone — most people fail to make this distinction. For valuable connections, take time to set up and sustain relationships. If you wait for others to establish relationships with you first, you may spend a lot of time waiting.

To overcome the anxiety of making and building better connections, Mike Steib, CEO of Artsy has developed a targeted approach for turning the strangers into valuable connections — Unfamiliar → Familiar → Intimate → Meaningful.

In our attention-deficit world, most relationships are still at the Unfamiliar phase — you meet someone, exchange a few ideas, business cards and even connect on Linkedin, but fail to follow up. I am still learning to make deeper connections with my contacts on Linkedin.

John Maxwell in his book, “Becoming a Person of Influence” wrote, “Connection is …absolutely critical if you want to influence people in a positive way. When you navigate for others, you come alongside them and travel their road for a while, helping them handle some of the obstacles and difficulties in their life. Yet when you connect with them, you are asking them to come alongside you and travel your road for your and their mutual benefit.”

For forge lasting connections, think people, not positions. Be more human. “Pitch yourself as a human being,” says Liz Fosslien, Head of Content and Editorial at Humu, and the co-author and illustrator of “No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work.

She explains, “Don’t be afraid to be honest about your admiration over email,” she says. “Open up by saying, ‘I love your work for X, Y, and Z reasons. I did this thing that I think you might like. If you enjoy it or want to repost it, I’d be thrilled,’” says Fosslien. “That’s it. Pitch yourself in a human way, and you’ll find that people will often respond to that authenticity.

Curious people make better connections

Studies have found that people who are curious are often viewed in social encounters as more interesting and engaging, and they are more apt to reach out to a wider variety of people, writes Jill Suttie, Psy.D. of The Greater Good Magazine.

To move up the connection ladder, we need to shift from light networking and “knowing” people to truly connecting people we already “know”. Follow up consistently with people you meet to guarantee a valuable, new relationship.

Humans have an innate desire to be appreciated and in our effort to move from unfamiliar to a meaningful connection, we mistakingly do all the talking and miss out on knowing others deeply — avoid temptations to talk about yourself.

To create authentic relationships with new people you meet, use every interaction as an opportunity to appreciate their work and interests.

Relationships require work — practice the art of listening, and giving. Listening goes beyond comprehension. The quality of your connections, your relationships, and your reputations all hinge on how well you can listen and follow up.

“Your success at building a network is founded on one very important mindset: that you’re doing it based on your desire to know, appreciate, and help other people,” according to First Round Review.

If you are tempted to think about what to say next in any conversation, focus on the other person with questions. Every time you start worrying about what to say next, that’s a helpful reminder to reinvest in the conversation.

Asking questions will prevent a common mistake — focusing on yourself instead of other people. It sets the stage for you to form an emotional connection with them.

The key to making meaningful connections isn’t going to a marathon of cocktail hours. It’s staying in “loose touch (the care and feeding of your networks over time),” says Karen Wickre, former editorial director of Twitter, and author of Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count.

“ No one likes to feel used repeatedly, especially when it’s one-sided. The best connections you can make are those where you have mutuality: sometimes one of you needs something, and sometimes neither of you does, and you continue to give your time and attention either way,” she told First Round Review.

Nurture your relationships before you need them.

According to Wickre, loose-touch habits include — sharing a story or two that you know are of interest to people in your network, sending gratitude notes to people you’ve enjoyed meeting or would like to catch up with, or sharing information, event or conference your contact may find useful. “You don’t have to explain a lot if you include an informative link, she advices.

Connecting with people at a deeper relational level has, for many, become an unknown skill or lost art. The journey from stranger to an authentic acquaintance takes time, — but it is worth it. To create meaningful and better connections, start over with a new goal — quality always trumps quantity.

This article first appeared on Medium.