Last week, the Seattle Chamber held the Smart + Simple Strategies for Small Business conference which featured author and psychologist Rom Brafman. Brafman co-wrote the book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior and just released a new book, Click: The Magic of Instant Connections.
If you are a small business in Seattle, I highly recommend that you check out what the Seattle Chamber has to offer. They have a ton of great events where you can learn and meet fellow small business owners.
The presentation by Rom Brafman focused on his research on what factors contribute to people forming strong connections with people in the workplace. This is pretty interesting research because we know that individuals with good people skills often excel in the business world. What is not entirely clear is what makes someone a good people person.
High Self Monitors
According to Brafman’s research an important factor is what is known in academia as high self monitoring. High self monitors tend to adjust how they are based on their surroundings. They are almost like social chamelons, and one study found that when a high self monitor is in a room with an experimenter who is tapping their foot, the high self monitor will tend to also tap their foot. Research has also found that high-self monitors tend to get promoted far faster. According to a BusinessWeek article about the book it “took an average of just 18 months for high self-monitors to infiltrate the nucleus of their workplace network. For low self0minitors it took a staggering 13 years”.
Importance of Proximity for Connections
Brafman’s research found that location had a huge impact in how connections are formed. When your desk is located in the center of an office you more likely to form more connections with others than if you are isolated in a corner. This also has implications in the trend for remote work. Brafman explained in his talk that the most meaningful part of a meeting as it relates to relationship building is before the meeting starts. When you are having a teleconference or working from home you may not develop personal ties through small talk.
Vulnerability can Improve Connections
Another interesting finding is that when people are more open and vulnerable, this can help others more easily connect with an individual. For instance when someone asks you how you are doing and you open up, this can improve the likelihood of a stronger connection.
An interesting fact that Brafman closed with is that in 1986 when people were asked how many confidants they had that they felt they could open up to, the number was 3. The same survey was taken in 2004 and the number was zero (I think zero was the most common answer).