There isn’t an actual academic term for ‘low key networking’. I just coined it myself.
Self-coined-definition of Low Key Networking: forming connections between people; getting them to have an inclination of hanging out with you whilst maintaining a certain amount of respectable or friendly distance; friends/acquaintances feel comfortable in indulging you with their wishes/memories/troubles to you; (this definition can be expanded upon)
This isn’t a how-to. Its more of an explanation for how certain people make friends/connections easily. Its a slow, effortful journey that eventually becomes almost effortless and comes with ease. The most essential part of it is being genuine and sincere in getting to know people, be it friends, colleagues or family.
- It starts with the small talk: any friendship begins with the awkward moments you spend grabbing drinks, talking about the weather and how finals are lurking around and such. Personally, I think small talks are fine as long as you selectively small talk with some people (especially new acquaintances) and to understand the balance of small talk and serious talks.
- Ask them about their lives: this works like a charm every time. If you’re not much of a small talker you can do this and just listen. People love talking about themselves. Comment on something you noticed about them, from what you’ve noticed they like to the stickers on their laptops. People genuinely like it when you notice something that may not be obvious at first glance. They also take an interest in you afterwards, and they may unconsciously bookmark you in their minds. This is important for later, when you need help and you know you can lean on these connections when you need help/advice you may not have expertise on.
- Be sincere: no one likes superficial friends. People can tell when you want something from them, especially if its a favor, money or gains to a position of power. When people do this to me, I straight up ask if they want something from me, because I dislike seeing them trying to see them trying to convince me, or ‘win’ me over if you will. I’d rather help them out sincerely if I sense that they need help. As for close friends, I’m always there for them. I also never disclose my circle of close friends to new friends, in case they think they may be able to gain connections from being close to me. In short, people value unconditional genuine friendships in which both gain deeper connections from hanging out with each other.
- Small favors: Ask for small favors from people you want to get closer to. Or do them small favors. This can be from grabbing coffee or helping out with homework. Even handing out a pen when they don’t have one works. Don’t try to over-do it though, because you may come off as trying to impress them just to gain something. Reiteration: be genuine, not fake.
- Balance attention: this is tricky but if you’re at big events and a lot of people are trying to talk to you, you have to know how to personally attend to all of them whilst not ignoring others. This skill is something that needs a lot of practice.
- Be sincere: Do. Not. Be. Fake. (trust me some people don’t get this memo)
- Know yourself: not everyone is intuitive in networking. Understand how you can gain personal connections by knowing what kind of person you are. This is another problem most people encounter, since they don’t understand themselves really well, they do not know how they can improve the way they present themselves, by utilizing their strengths and improving on weaknesses. Thus, they come off as trying too hard or pretending to be something they are not.
My personal take: Gaining friends is easy. However, maintaining a somewhat deep relationship with new-ish friends is harder and requires a decent amount of effort. Rule of thumb is however to be always sincere because people repel from you once they feel like you’re trying too hard. Again, there are no hard or fast rules in general, everything about making friends and networking is intuitive and understanding the aura, vibes and atmosphere you get from the space.
A great read on a relevant topic: “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, find the term ‘Connector’. A connector generally means a person/friend/acquaintance you know who connects you to various other people, an essential person in our social circle(s). Connectors know a lot of people and they genuinely maintain these friendships as well as introduce people to others in their social circle. I self-identify as a partial connector, I only connect people if I deem it mutually beneficial for both of them.
(Image credits: Wall Street Journal)