Thinking about others until it's inconvenient
August 29, 2014 6:21 PM   Subscribe

Help me form a strategy for reaching out to people I have met and want to know better. I need a new one to help me search for work, but I have difficulty working with specific sorts of strategies for general sorts of problems, so I'd like to avoid making it about job hunting exactly. More about how to think of people in a way that accounts for my own interests while still thinking of them and not myself.

Here's an example of my problem.

There is a career center at my college. I've known about it for about as long as I've been here. I went there when it was suggested to me, and went again when I needed to find a job shortly after graduating. I got an individual consultation where we touched up my resume and talked out some confusion I had over how interviews worked and how to search for work generally. So then I went home and proceeded to grind out some cover letters...went back once more when I wanted to redo the resume...and that was it, because the consultation had covered all of the services they'd advertised to me at that point. Turns out the people there have a lot of specific knowledge about local businesses that's of much more use to me, but it took a rare flash of inspiration for me to think to ask.

I can see this sort of thing happening in basically all my interactions with people, from the woman I met over board games to my own parents. Having established a relationship...that's it; I don't even look for ways to extend it, even when I have obvious and immediate interest in doing so. There is nothing stopping me, but I never get around to even trying.

I have a guess as to the reason. I may not be "narrow-minded" per se, but whatever I'm focusing on at the moment, and however widely, I tend to either stick with that, or change to a different subject entirely, rather than mould the context and thereby? perhaps? influence the way the relationship grows. Actually my concept for how relationships grow is mostly hearsay because this problem means they don't grow, when I'm involved.

Although I may know the problem and the cause, those realizations between them were pretty brain-expensive. I'd prefer not to stew quite so hard over the solutions. So what might I do about this?
posted by LogicalDash to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
So you're talking about networking. Who knows who and they know this about what. Is that correct?

In Maine, we have an informal network going on. I can stop in a store and someone will tell me that place or this place is good. I will log onto Facebook and hear about some blueberry picking place that was started by the guy who got fired from the mill a couple of years ago and now we all want to help him out.

Basically, you have to get better with small talk. I have found out more things from a local cashier and health workers than I have learned via the news station.

And then we know, this guy or that gal may not be cool. You may keep to yourself, and that is good, but if you want to know more, be a gossip, dear. Talk to people about this or that and then ask directions or how do you find this or what do you do, ask questions, be interested in every person you meet. That's how I find out about stuff, anyway.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:57 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's mechanical but you can use index cards or an app and add tags to start seeing patterns. You can train yourself to stop and think through the features and resources of each person or group you. EEG and in time, you'll do this automatically.

Also put down what you can offer in return - you don't have to offer it, but you need to have the habit of seeing it as mutual aid. Look to referring people to other resources which is helpful too.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:36 PM on August 29, 2014

Pretend you are a very rich, worldly person at a restaurant that is new to you, but known to be very good. The menu given is not how you choose to experience restaurants, of course - you read it, but it only forms the basis for your chat with the server, whom you ask about the off menu specials, the local specialties, etc. You tell the server a bit about what you like, and this helps him think of another dish altogether that turns out to be exquisite.

The point isn't to be haughty, but curious and confident that people can help you, and as viggorlijah says, that you have something to offer as well. Even if a relationship seems to be one-way, you are always offering your curiosity, attentiveness, and appreciation.
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:17 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

It might help to develop a habit of asking an open-ended question every time you interact with someone. You could have some generic ones ready "What's new?" "Tell me more about [organization] [yourself]." "What else do you like to do (besides activity we are doing now)?" Or you could develop a habit of mentally testing the limits of your knowledge about someone before you hang out, so that you can come up with something you're genuinely curious about, like "mom, I know you went to college in X and majored in Y, but I don't know much about who your friends or dates were in college. Who did you hang out with mostly?"
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 4:10 PM on August 30, 2014

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