Six Degrees of Separation: Your Network of Friends and How It Can Help You Get Things Done

Learn how to cultivate and manage a good network of friends that will allow you to utilize the full potential of your social network.

Do you know Stanley Milgrim? If not his name, then I’m sure his work. Have you ever heard the claim that every person on earth is separated from every other person by only six people? That means you know someone that knows someone that knows someone that knows someone that knows someone that knows the President of the United States, Donald Trump or your states Governor. You know the importance of having friends, but what is your own personal circle of influence?

We all have friends who we trust. Friends that we ask advice of and friends we give advice to. We also have friends we just know a little and finally we all have casual acquaintances. Each group of friends falls into a different “ring” around you that makes up your circle of influence. Each group is progressively bigger, containing more names, than the one before. I only have a few people I know that I feel comfortable asking advice. But, I have hundreds of casual acquaintances that I could call or e-mail with a request or a favor. Most people operate in this fashion. That's six-degrees of separation.

How can this benefit me?”

Do you have something you are committed to doing?

Do you need to spread the word about a disease that affects your family?

Do you have a new invention and need someone to help guide you in the right direction?

Do you have an issue for local government to address but can’t get any attention?

Are you trying to launch a new business and need some foot/internet traffic?

Is there a cause that you want to raise awareness of but need an inside contact in the media?

Is there anything you want to accomplish but just need that one break?

Be Proactive

In order to be proactive you must also be prepared.

What are your goals?

What are you trying to achieve?

What results are you looking for from your network?

Do your homework and make decisions based on whom you are trying to reach. Not the actual person but maybe the position that person might have or the influence that person might hold. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. That’s what the network is all about, but be careful not to exceed your personal stake in the relationship. You wouldn’t want to ask someone you just met for the names of all of the important people in their life. That would be asking too much of an infant relationship.

You just have to be brave and talk to everyone you know. Once you have decided what you are trying to accomplish, you must make contact with every person you know. Family, close friends, co-workers, church affiliates, and acquaintances. Don’t confuse being prepared with being conceited. All requests must be made in a humble, non-assuming, attitude. Remember, people will want to help you.

Managing the Network

Sincerity, incentive, geography, and potential are the keys to maintaining a successful “6 degrees” network. So, what makes your network work?

Sincerity is something that is really important. Are you truly looking for help or are you just trying to create a buzz? Are you always asking for favors but never have anything to offer in return? It’s kind of like wearing out your welcome. Be sincere and be ready to state your position. What you need and what you might be able to do for them in return. Can you barter services for the opportunity to make another contact? If you can bring something to the table then offer it up. If you can’t, then be sure to show humility and be genuine. Never lie or stretch the truth.

Incentive is the reason for pursuing your request for help. Helping you with your cause will benefit whom or what? Be sure that when you are spreading the word that you have clearly defined what you expect to get by using the power of the network. What type of results are you expecting? Remember that you should aim high but not to be pie in the sky. What makes me want to tell my friends about your cause? Can I see the potential result of my effort? Am I expecting something in return from you or have I been excited by the chance to be a part of something bigger?

Geography is the idea that there are an infinite number of personal links and even more differences in the way those people are connected. If you want to talk to someone in the movie business then you might want to start your search with someone who lives in California. Maybe you don’t know anyone that lives in California. Do any of your friends? The more of your friends that you involve in you quest, the more chance you have of finding someone that has a friend in California.

The seeds of success in your six-degree network can be planted in the most unlikely places. You might sit next to someone at a meeting, or be chatty with someone at your child’s school; maybe you meet someone new at the gym this week. Be sure to be prepared for every chance that might cross your path. Every interaction you have will and can affect the effectiveness of your network.You can never be sure whom you are talking to and who they might know. This could be the one break you are looking for today

The only thing to be careful of is “jumping” your initial contact to get to someone else in the network. Don’t be too pushy or react too quickly to potential group leaders. You can easily make someone feel used or unworthy if you move on to their network without involving them. Just be careful not to burn bridges because you’ve gotten too excited. The network is there and there is no need to rush the relationship. Especially if the potential gain is great, you should take the time to cultivate the relationship in order to gain edification from all of the people involved.

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Dr. Harmander Singh
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Posted on Aug 3, 2009