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  CONTENTS >> OUR TIMES   Jan/Feb 2009

Lessons from the Playground

By Maureen G. Mulvaney

Maureen G. Mulvaney
Most children are natural networkers. The minute we were mobile, we began making friends—on the playground, in the doctor’s office and in school. To reclaim your ability to network naturally, all you have to do is reclaim your childlike curiosity. It’s as easy as one, two, three.

1. Shift Your Perceptions of Networking

As children we heard, “Don’t talk to strangers.” As adults, we are asked to attend networking events and accost strangers with our business cards. This isn’t natural.

Our parents and teachers who didn’t want us talking to strangers encouraged us to make friends. Shift your artificial perception of networking to doing what you’ve been doing since childhood: meeting and making new friends.

You must also shift your perception of where to meet your new friends. As kids, we networked anywhere there was another kid. Natural networking takes place everywhere there are people. Look at all the places you go during the day: dropping off kids at school, the grocery store, the airport, the bank. View these places with a new set of eyes and make them your portable networking office. Make your office hours any time there is an opportunity to make a new friend.

2. Talk to Your New Friend

The easiest way to talk to a new friend is to ask questions and be genuinely interested. Children can’t help themselves from asking questions. As adults we must unleash our childlike curiosity.

Psychology 101 teaches, “The one asking the question is in control.” Take control of...

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