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Networking Secret #7: Never Eat Alone

Networking Secret #7: Never Eat Alone

By Keith Ferrazzi

Friendship grows from the quality of time two people spend together, not the quantity. There is a common misconception that to build a bond, two people need to meet often and for long stretches. This is not the case. Outside your family and work, you probably can count the people you see frequently in the course of a month on two hands. Yet surely you have more than 10 friends. It is what you do together that matters, not how often you meet. That’s why you have to pay special attention to where you’re most comfortable and what activities you most enjoy.

Share Your Passions

I have always loved throwing dinner parties, even back in business school when it meant everyone had to sit in folding chairs and hold their plates in their laps. The companionable effects of breaking bread make it so easy to bring people together. This is what the phrase never eat alone really means: Just doing things you love and inviting others to share in your passions. Although I believe anyone can throw a great dinner party, there are plenty more ways to never eat alone. I also love to exercise, for instance. Others may like to collect stamps or baseball cards, talk politics or go skydiving.

When we are truly passionate about something, it’s contagious. Our passion draws other people to who we are and what we care about. They respond by letting their guard down, which is why sharing your passions is important in business. I can tell more about how someone is likely to react in a business situation from my experience with him at an intimate dinner or after just one strenuous workout than I can from any number of in-office meetings. We just naturally loosen up outside work. Perhaps it’s the venue itself, not to mention the wine over dinner. It’s astonishing how much more you can learn about someone when you are both doing something you enjoy.

Dinner, the YMCA or Church

I have a friend who is the executive vice president of a large bank in Charlotte, North Carolina. His networking hot spot is, of all places, the YMCA. He tells me that at 5 and 6 in the morning, the place is buzzing with exercise fanatics like him getting a workout before they go to the office. He scouts the place for entrepreneurs, current customers and prospects. Then, as he’s huffing and puffing on the StairMaster, he answers their questions about investments and loans.

Keith Ferazzi's Networking Secrets

Besides food and exercise, I sometimes take people to church. That’s right, church. I attend a mostly African American and Hispanic/Latino Catholic church in Los Angeles — St. Agatha’s. It’s wonderfully unorthodox. Instead of “passing the peace” in the form of a simple handshake, a gospel choir belts out uplifting tunes while the congregants walk around the church hugging each other for 10 minutes. I don’t try to foist my beliefs on anyone; the people I bring along — whether an actor or lawyer or an atheist or Orthodox Jew — tend to see my invitation as a kind of personalized gift. It shows them that I think so highly of them I’m willing to share a deeply personal part of my life.

Strong Relationships Help Careers

Contrary to popular business wisdom, I don’t believe there has to be a rigid line between our private and public lives. Old-school business views the expression of emotions and compassion as vulnerability; today’s new businesspeople see such attributes as the glue that binds us. When our relationships are stronger, our businesses and careers are more successful.

Obviously, this never eat alone rule isn’t one you can follow 100 percent, but it’s a great way to remember to invite others into the activities you already enjoy doing. Just make a list of the things you’ll be doing in the next couple of weeks, and invite people you’d like to know better to join you. Building relationships this way takes no more time than you already devote to your favorite activities. You’ll be energized and have fun while doing things you love so others will see you in the best light, not those nasty office fluorescents.

Get more tips in Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone and by subscribing to Keith’s free tip of the week.


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    sophiaallen5

    almost 4 years ago

    58 comments

    I always suggest "Done properly and genuinely, a network is synonymous to a group of friends and is just as much a place to give as it is a place to receive."
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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    about 5 years ago

    This is a good article. Now... about the eating together, though. Birds of a feather flock together. If there is no one in the room you would want in your life, you might just eat alone. This comes from a marriage proposal from a man at a Burger King... a long time ago!!! But, the people I consider to be the best friends are the ones who will go through hard times with you and not hurt you. In 1998, I had a stroke. It took away my ability to communicate in both speech and writing. Everything came out really strange to other people! But, I was still thinking clearly on the inside. I wrote letters to people I respected. They didn't know what was going on, I'm sure. None ever wrote me back. These people, however, didn't do things to hurt me or cause me to lose my ability to live. They just let me keep writing, or whatever. I would call and leave voicemails for some people. The messages were all garbled and strange. No one ever called me back. They didn't do anything to hurt me. They just let me call. It was family that changed their phone numbers. They could not stick it out with me. May God Bless my friends who let me do what I needed to do to get me back!!!

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