To forge truly authentic relationships, you need to move people from being strangers to becoming your acquaintances, then friends, then close connections.
Each stage brings its own set of concerns. The journey from stranger to acquaintance is often filled with awkwardness, ice breakers and uncomfortable settings. But the perils of the acquaintance zone are of a different sort: exchanging pleasantries, sticking to shallow conversations and attempting to escape the endless loop of “We should get together sometime.”
In short, there’s a difference between knowing someone and knowing someone — and most networking advice falls flat because it fails to make this distinction.
But that can’t be said of Mike Steib. His approach to networking is of a different mold — and it’s a key reason why his thoughts on building a meaningful network was some of the best advice we featured on the Review last year. To overcome the anxiety that many of us experience when it comes to networking, the current CEO of Artsy and former leader of XO Group has developed a targeted approach for turning the strangers who populate our lives into valuable and cherished connections. Steib likes to think of people moving up through four nested concentric networks:
Unfamiliar → Familiar → Intimate → Meaningful.
Your Unfamiliar and Familiar Networks are straightforward enough — people you don’t know at all and acquaintances you know a little, respectively. But that’s where the demarcation is drawn, where you need to shift from light networking and “knowing” people to truly connecting and going deep. For those of us looking to land the leap from small talk to meaningful conversation, Steib’s lightweight yet highly tactical advice is perfect for really getting to know a subset of people with whom you’d like to have a closer connection.Read This Next
Here it is in his own words:
You bring people from your Familiar Network into your Intimate Network by getting to know them well, understanding your commonalities, and finding ways you can be helpful to them. Just about everyone gets this next part wrong. When faced with an interesting new person in our Familiar Network, we tend to make one of two fundamental mistakes: talking about yourself and committing conversational cowardice.