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The Lost Art of Connecting in our Lonely World

Most people today feel disconnected

Between the years of 1985 and 2009, the average American’s social network shrank, meaning their number of close confidants declined by up to one-third;[1] This is true for both the young and the old.[2] We’re living in a loneliness epidemic that is causing declines in physical and mental health, as well as decreased work satisfaction and performance.[3][4] Now, on top of that, as I write these pages, the world is in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic that has forced people to self-isolate and physically stay apart.  It’s clear that the art of connecting is indeed lost. We’re talking, Zooming, Tweeting, and texting but we’re not feeling a sense of connection. People have lost their sense of belonging and purpose in their careers and their lives. Why? Because we’ve come to lean too hard on our digital lives. Virtual connections are not the end; they are the means to an end—an authentic relationship with depth, be it professional or personal. And that is what this book is all about: how to build that all elusive depth.

Connecting—as I’ve come to understand it—comes down to one simple question: How can I help? Asking this question in any meeting, any introduction—any moment—immediately narrows my focus on how I can be of service and support to others.

And isn’t that what makes relationships feel meaningful?

Every single person is an introduction to something else: another person, a unique skill, a new project, or something you inevitably will learn about yourself. 

It should never be about, What will I get from this person?

But instead, What can I learn? What can I discover?

Or, Who could I connect this person with? 

I’ve always enjoyed threading people together to create something bigger and unknown—the way small children do with those little black circles in dot-to-dot drawings, never certain until the final connections are filled in what the larger picture will be. This three step method – Gather, Ask, Do — has led me to a career filled with deep fulfillment and enjoyment. It’s connected me to people from all walks of life. It’s taken me around the world, given me seats on boards, and introduced me to a lifetime of relationships and experiences.

GATHER: Instead of waiting for the perfect event to happen, think outside of the box and create your own opportunity―but keep it simple. Start by looking within: What is your purpose in life? What constellations of connections do you most need? Proactively seek diversity and find connectors who can further expand your reach.

ASK: Instead of leading with our own rehearsed elevator pitches asking for help, offer to help―opening the door to share resources, experience, contacts, and perspectives different from our own.

DO: Turn new connections into meaningful relationships. Follow through on the promises you made, keep in touch, and learn to move past small talk by embracing your vulnerability and having conversations that matter.

This method will not only help you create your own connections but it will give you the tools to help others create connections as well. And that is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this method; not only the deeply nourishing relationships that you will develop, but also the ripple effect of connecting others. 

Today, I use our exploding communication tools to bring people together from different sectors in ways that were never possible before, and without any of the antagonism or competition that makes “networking” feel like a dirty word.  Instead, I nurture and bring people together, rather than pitting them against one another to see who wins the Twitter showdown.  Whether it’s a former boss on the West Coast, a best friend from my hometown, or the high school student I met at a friend’s child’s graduation wanting to know more about my business, they’re all part of my world of connections, or constellations, as I’ve come to calls them.   This approach for seeing, making space for, and acting on potential connections has allowed me to fuse my life and work without burnout, overwhelm, or anxiety.  It can do the same for you.





To read more from Susan McPherson, check out her new book, The Lost Art of Connecting.

SUSAN MCPHERSON is a serial connector, angel investor, and corporate responsibility expert. She is the founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focused on the intersection of brands and social impact, providing storytelling, partnership creation and visibility to corporations, NGOs and social enterprises. She is the author of The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Relationships. Susan has 25+ years of experience in marketing, public relations, and sustainability communications, speaking regularly at industry events including Inspirefest/Dublin, BSR, Center for Corporate Citizenship's Annual Summit, DLD and Techonomy., and contributing to the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Forbes. She has appeared on NPR, CNN, USA Today, The New Yorker, New York Magazine and the Los Angeles Times.