These days, connections are casual. But doing your homework before those important meetings in life can help you make deep connections that change the game.

“So, where are you from?”

Ever ask that question? All of us do when we meet somebody for the first time. Humans spend a ton of time in the initial conversations of life, whether we’re talking to a banker or someone we just met at a party. Especially during the holiday season, chit-chat is part of life.

And frankly, we do this even during the big meetings. When we go to meet with someone who is a potential investor, someone we might buy a property from or an employer we’re going to interview with for a job, we spend time making small talk and asking questions.

You’ll sometimes hear me say “small talk is big talk.”

There is a space for conversation just for the sake of conversation. But if you’re going to interact and connect with someone in a very relevant way, then I’m not a fan of small talk.

I am a big fan of doing the homework before the leg work.

In other words, I like to see more preparation when you’re going in for a connection.

Are casual connections killing your career?

The fact that Green Berets have to go into pretty harsh places and stay for long periods of time with small groups of people is what distinguishes us and a lot of the work that we do. We often have to connect as if our lives depend on it—period.

But in our society, connections are often casual. Just watch how people in public interact with each other—they’re withdrawn and closed off and skeptical.

Let me tell you, those casual connections are costing you money, resources and your reputation. There is a transactional cost when you are apathetic. Especially when you are casual about the connections with the really relevant people in your life, whether they’re your clients, employees or children. Even civilians should make connections as if our lives depend on it.

Deep connections create opportunities

Let’s say you’re meeting with a potential investor or employer or someone who’s going to make a decision about your kids at school. Those are important interactions and we have fleeting opportunities to make initial connections that open the door for us to go deeper.

We have to do the homework before we do the legwork. 

Bottom line: In this day and age, we should never have to ask someone where they are from or what they are into. There is too much information out there on the Internet, on social media and in circles of friends. When you do sit down in front of them, don’t waste time asking idle questions. You should already know something about them, so that the questions you ask can be meaningful and well-informed.

And I will tell you, the kinds of answers and feedback you get in life are directly proportional to the quality of the questions you ask.

So do the work ahead of time. Learning what someone’s interests, accreditations and stories are is so simple, there’s no excuse not to do your research.

Why does doing your homework matter?

There are truly personal ways in which this kind of effort can affect your connections.

  1. Validating someone’s identity. We are meaning-seeking creatures. When someone takes the time to learn about us authentically and for the purpose of engaging in a deeper conversation, that validates our identity on a visceral level. And when our identity is validated it elicits reciprocity, meaning we want to do something back for the other person.
  2. Finding opportunities to connect. When you know something about that kind of person, it gives you really solid questions to ask and makes the connection points deeper. You find better ways to connect.
  3. Deepening the relationship. Locating truly meaningful places to connect can take the relationship even deeper. We’re social creatures, it’s how we’re wried.

In the end, just a few moments of research before you sit down with someone can make all the difference. Find our where they went to school, where they’ve worked and what their interests are. Learn about them in an authentic way so that you can have a meaningful conversation. If you do, I can promise you that it will pay off big time.

Because you know what?

Almost no one does this these days. They’re too casual about the connections.

And so the people who take the time to have deep meaningful conversations—who do the legwork before the legwork—are the ones who are going to crush it.

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