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How to be a Better Connector

Just this past week, three friends/colleagues who don’t even know one another proclaimed to me, verbatim, “I’m just gonna stop being nice to people!” Like that would ever happen, I told each of these strong, smart, and incredibly nice women.

“I’m just gonna stop being nice to people!”

It was clear that their common frustrations were rooted in similar disappointing experiences born out of the fact that, at their core, they are connectors, a concept introduced by Malcolm Gladwell in his acclaimed bestseller, The Tipping Point. “Those unique people who always seem to know how to help, or if they can’t, know someone who can and who quickly and freely put you in touch with them, writes Margot Anderson in her blog, The Power of Being A Connector. More often than not, they are the ones that make you feel at ease almost immediately, seem to understand situations even before you describe them, and ooze warmth, energy, and genuine interest in.”

Nancy Mendelson

As a connector myself, Margot’s description was so on point I felt as though we were, well, connected. Without forethought or the expectation of a quid pro quo, when connectors see the opportunity to put people and ideas together, they instinctively act. So, why was everyone feeling so shitty after doing something so joyfully second nature?

As I often do when searching for answers, I turned to Google and found a veritable wealth of information on all the great aspects of being a connector, but nothing about the possible downside….until I came across Why the “Connector” Is Always Forgotten, written by Amanda Stern for The Next Big Idea Club, who posed the question, “How then do we account for the fact that once these connectors connect people, they are, by and large, forgotten? Years on the question, “How did you meet?” will be met with a stunning inability to remember.” Aha…now we’re getting somewhere!

I was reminded of someone who was starting a new business and asked if I would connect him with people who could benefit from his new offerings. Happy to help, I made email introductions to some excellent prospects. Months later I saw on LinkedIn that he had scored a major deal with one of my contacts. Even though I was thrilled for him, I also felt disappointed that he hadn’t shared that news with me himself. And like my three connector friends, for a split second, it made me want to stop being nice to people.

In the Journal of Applied Psychology, social psychologists Frank Flynn and Joel Brockner explain that “Once an introduction’s been made, the receivers’ attention is pulled away from the giver and into their potential future glory. The giver hopes for a positive outcome, and perhaps a future status update in the form of an email.”. YES…that! Although In some articles I read there were connectors who said that they only care about the impact of the connection – not taking the credit. How evolved!

Hey, I’m not talking about taking any credit. Genuine caring goes into “connecting” and yes, a status update would be a considerate gesture. Is that so wrong? Or, to quote Amanda Stern, “Would it kill you to say thank you?”

1 Comment

Nico Sheers
Nico Sheers
Mar 03, 2022

I can't think of anyone who better fits the definition of a connector than you, Nancy. Over the years I've seen you help scores of people, and you were the unofficial shrink at our old company. I hope some of the many people you helped had the decency to say "thank you", including myself!

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