Building a strong network requires a few personal attributes: confidence to meet and introduce ourselves to others, ability to build rapport with someone you previously may not have known, and willingness to help others, just to name a few. Luckily, these all come pretty naturally to me.
But in the last couple of years, my network has suffered for a number of reasons. I've found that the personal traits above, while great for winning friends, are not enough to maintain the healthy and fulfilling relationships that a real network provides. There must be something more fundamental than being helpful and likable.
Rather than some outward characteristic, I think the key to building a strong network is really the inner peace we possess. Inner peace enables us to be in relationship with others. As twentieth century philosopher Thomas Merton said, "We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves."
It's probably no coincidence that at the same time my relationships have suffered, I've also been struggling to regain my inner peace. One priority for me in 2016 has been to get my interior life back on track. As I've done this, my network is slowly but surely starting to prosper again.
From this experience, I've identified four ways obtaining interior peace can help us become better networkers.
- Interior peace silences the inner voices that make us feel suspicious, jealous, or doubtful toward those in our network. A peaceful person is simply grateful to have friends and acquaintances, not constantly fearing their judgment.
- A peaceful demeanor makes you more approachable to others. Have you ever seen true peace in someone's eyes? It's like you can see right into a soul, purely authentic and without judgment. They smile easily and speak with a lightness that makes you feel welcome. These rare people are great to be around.
- Peace makes us more aware of the present moment. This is where relationships exist. A peaceful person rarely checks their watch or iPhone in the middle of a conversation with a friend.
- With inner peace, we are more prone to serve others. Nothing helps a network prosper more than cultivating it through selfless giving.
Of course, finding peace is not about networking. Interior peace is worth pursuing for its on sake. The writings of the early Christian hermits who lived alone in the desert are proof enough of that. But for those of us with networks to build, we would do well to spend time each week trying to grasp some inner peace before happy hour on Friday.
Showing up peaceful, we will greet friends with serenity. We can trust their intentions toward us. We will be truly present to them. And we'll be more likely to offer help, seeking nothing in return. And in doing all that for others, the same will ultimately come back around to us. That is the mark of a solid network.