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How Valuable Are Connections You Don’t Actually Know?

Was it puppy love? Did he think I was unattainable as a big city girl because he was a small town country boy? Or was it simply vanished memories from too much fun in the 1970s?

Who knows, but forty-three years later he found me on Facebook. With absolutely no recollection of meeting him, I assumed he was looking for a different Susan Jacobs - a recurring theme going through life with a common name.

Alas, however, his memory was sharp; we met in Nova Scotia while he was waiting for the ferry, he came to New York to visit me and I turned him onto Jimmy Cliff’s album, The Harder They Come. He also remembered that my parents owned the Earth Shoe company, and that he came with me to the United National International School where I attended.

We had a fun albeit surreal phone call and will potentially meet the next time he passes through New York.

The timing is fortuitous because in my ongoing journey towards minimalism, I’m looking at and re-evaluating relationships and connections both professionally and personally. Perhaps it’s a middle-aged thing, or social media burnout (then again, this blast from the past would never have found me without social media), but I’m craving deeper, more meaningful relationships and losing interest in maintaining a collection of connections that I don’t know. It provides a false sense of security, importance, and ‘belonging.’

As an extrovert by nature, I love talking with strangers and will engage with anyone, anywhere. The spectrum ranges from homeless people I’ve befriended to striking up conversations with ambassadors of countries, CEO’s, and even the former president of Haiti.

My mother is the master of talking to strangers, making people feel comfortable, and being able to get them laughing; apparently, I inherited the trait.

As a result, my ‘rolodex’ is filled with people I’ve collected over the years. My desk drawer has bundles of business cards; on LinkedIn and Facebook I have a few thousand ‘friends.’ It’s daunting. Sometimes it makes me feel special and popular, but often it feels like clutter because there is little real connecting happening.

Hi, I’m Susan, I’m a people hoarder.

It’s the process of meeting new people that turns me on - the flirt, the newness, the serendipity of the moment, the often-crazy circuitous sequence of events that brought us together.

Like the blast-from-the-past guy, I’ll also pick up the phone and call someone I haven’t spoken with for 30 years and it’s as normal as if it were yesterday.

So how do you discern whom to connect with?

When you reach out on social media to make a new connection, do you take pause for a moment to reflect on why you think this particular person would be mutually beneficial to know?

Do you include a personal note as to why you’re wanting to connect and ask for a meet-and-greet call? If not, how does that connection become of value to either person? 

Would you do business with someone you’ve never spoken with or refer business to them?

A stranger sent me a friend request on Facebook. I vetted him, saw that he was legit, accepted the request, and sent a message asking for a phone call, leaving my number. Within minutes he called and was ‘blown away’ because he never thought to do that but said, ‘of course, that makes perfect sense.’

Why would you ‘friend’ a stranger and not want to learn who they are?

Coincidently, I was going to be in his city so we met in person and have become a professional resource for each other. But had I not done requested a phone call, he’d just be another stranger ‘friend.’

Human-to-human connecting is a dying art and loneliness seems to be on the rise.

Do you have a ‘circle of influence?’

You are the combined average of the five people you spend the most time with.
— Entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker Jim Rohn

If you’re surrounded by strangers, how is that influencing you and, not to get too crunchy granola here, but how does that make you feel? And how does it help you professionally or personally?

I met a woman a couple of years ago at an event and we had a lot of fun talking. I reached out several times to schedule a catch-up call but she was never available until recently. We spoke; she appreciated my persistence and kept waiting for my ‘ask,’ what I was going to try to sell her, which was nothing. Sometimes catching up really just means catching up! If I had wanted to sell something, I would have phrased the emails different and been transparent.

Today, it seems everyone is always trying to sell something.

How do you know when it’s time to disconnect from a connection and how easy is it for you to hit the delete button?

As a people hoarder, I struggle with this but am getting ruthless. Once, twice, three strikes you’re out… if they don’t respond at all after three (OK sometimes it’s four) attempts to have a conversation, I say bye-bye. Yes, people are busy. Yes, we may not be front-and-center on their mind. Yes, yes, yes… But… it takes a matter of seconds to send an email or a text saying ‘not interested,’ ‘it’s bad timing, circle back at a later date,’ anything. Just seconds.

If any of this resonates with you, take a look at your connections, let go of expecting to receive something in return, and simply start to nurture your relationships.

Relationships matter. The impression you leave matters.

After all, you never know who may come knocking on your social media door forty-three years later!

About Susan Jacobs, Writer | Storyteller | Strategist

Writing has been part of my DNA, career, and creative outlet for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved capturing people’s attention, stimulating inspiration and action, and expanding perspectives through storytelling.

I write vision. Words matter and the right words can make an indelible impression. Mix that with strategy and it’s a potent cocktail. I’m intentionally diverse and industry agnostic, which enables me to always bring a fresh perspective to the brand writing and strategies I create for clients.

Travel is a great source of inspiration and joy. Thus far, I’ve been to 33 countries and had the opportunity to work on client projects in Africa, Europe, Haiti, and across the U.S. My years of expertise are enriched by the life-changing experiences I’ve had crossing borders and cultures while traveling off-the-beaten-path.

Giving voice to things that matter, raising awareness, and expanding perspectives is the heart and soul of who I am and what I do.