“So, how’re the wife and kids?”

OK, so if we want to bring that into the modern era, that should be “spouse” or “significant other”, but still this old chestnut is the basis for one of the most powerful topics you can discuss in a networking one-to-one — the other person’s relationships.

This is the final part of my series on conversational topics during a one-to-one meeting. You can read the posts on “Interests“, “Networks“, “Future Focus“, and “Evolution” first if you want, but it’s not necessary. This series sprang from a desire to look a little more closely at the concepts embedded in the INFER system I came up with a couple of years ago. The underlying theme to all of these pieces, though, is to focus your attention on the other person and learn more about them so you can find ways to help them succeed.

Their success leads to your success.

While asking someone about the most important people in their life is powerful, for the same reasons, it’s something around which we need to tread lightly You’ve heard the one about a mama bear protecting her cubs, right? We aren’t that different.

I still remember the first time we took Kaylie out to a restaurant. We were at our favorite place, Raja Rani. We had gone there so many times in the past that the staff there pretty much all knew us and would always stop to chat when we showed up. One of the waiters greeted us at the door and seeing our little bundle of joy in her carrier reached out to touch her hand.

Something dark and primitive shifted in the back of my skull — sleep deprivation never helps these situations, by the way. Unbeknownst to him, that young waiter came about this close to me doing bodily harm to him before I was able to re-engage the “civilization” part of my brain. It was kind of scary to realize that I had that in me.

That’s the kind of deep emotion, though that makes understanding another person’s relationships so important.

If you protect and nurture their family, you become family.

I’ve spoken with some truly great networkers and they all understand this. They look for opportunities to help someone elses children get into good schools. They help aging parents connect with services that allow them to stay in their homes. They might even find potential jobs for siblings or spouses. Heck, I’m guessing they buy a lot of Girl Scout cookies each year.

And they do it because it’s the right thing to do, not because they want the other person to “owe” them.

Approach this topic carefully. Asking about the troubles their children are having isn’t a “first coffee” conversation. As you get to know them, it’s perfectly natural to ask about the relationships they’ve shared with you, but don’t probe for their pain in those areas. That’s something they need to bring to you. Done gently, though, connecting through their existing relationships can go a long way toward building a powerful connection between you.

And that’s the point of this whole networking thing, right?

Photo by Al Bogdan