Connections or Conversations? Which first?

In the past couple of weeks, I had the opportunity to be an observer at an internal corporate session where employees were being educated about building connections in the professional world. The entire audience was made of young and energetic people in their mid-late twenties. The session covered ground around the need for building connections, tools, technologies etc., as you would expect from a professional workshop. The presenter did a fantastic job of emphasizing the need for staying connected in a professional world along with some pragmatic tips and techniques. Soon, it was time for Q&A – It almost seemed like the entire audience was waiting for this opportunity.

There were several questions related to the session and its content that were being exchanged and I was asked to speak on the need to build reasonably good conversational skills in the professional context. The session drew to a close and as we were walking out, one girl in the group came up to me and asked “Do we need to have connections to have conversations OR do conversations build connections? Which comes first?” At first instance, this seemed like the proverbial question of “which first? The egg or the chicken?”. I asked the girl to elaborate and she went on to ask “There are many people that we are connected to, but unable to engage in conversations beyond the first few minutes. I wanted to know if there is a reason why this is the case?”. Given that I had another meeting to be at, I acknowledged the question and left without providing any answer.

A few days later, the question popped in my head and made we wonder – Connections or Conversations? I thought about that for some time and asked myself the question – How many connections do I have; both personally and professionally. Of course, I was asking that question with regards to the people that I was connected in the digital world. I am not an extremely social being and therefore my number of connections came to around 1600 people or so. The next thing I did was to list all those connections and rank them in some relevance to how important these were to me and why they were important to me (I used parameters that were important to me any may not align with what a few others may consider). I came up with 150 odd people from that list.

I could go on forever with the exercise – getting to the point. What I realized from this exercise was the fact that the 150 people in my connections were folks that I shared great rapport with and often engaged in conversations with. These were people that I either met with in-person or had frequent phone conversations with. There was a personal connect. Engaging in conversations takes effort and with today’s fast paced world where everyone is busy, we are required to exercise our judgment on the connections that we would like to nurture – and, conversations are a great way of doing so.

As always, let us know what you think. What has your experience been around this topic?

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