Three weeks ago I started My 10 Day Experiment in Keeping in Touch. My goal was to contact a different person each day that I had fallen out of touch with and re-connect.
When I wrote the post, I thought I’d use a formula: say hi, give them some useful piece of information and ask them one question. I rarely did that.
Some people I wrote long e-mails to, some I wrote short e-mails. Sometimes I gave them an update on my life first, sometimes I just asked a question. Every e-mail wound up being customized and personal.
It depended on who I was writing, what our relationship was and what I was feeling in the moment. I aimed for an authentic connection first and foremost.
The experiment succeeded. I haven’t mastered the art of staying in touch, but I’m encouraged by my initial results.
During the experiment, I reached out to 10 people I had met previously, but failed to stay in touch with. Six people responded, resulting in:
- 2 awesome conversations
- 2 good conversations
- 2 pleasant responses
Most e-mails took 10-15 minutes to write. The longest took 28 minutes (and resulted in a great conversation!). On average, including followup conversations, I spend 22 minutes per day doing the experiment.
(I do 24/7 time-tracking—a topic for a separate post—which is where these numbers come from.)
Extrapolating, if I contact 200 people a year, I’ll have 40 awesome conversations, 40 good conversations and 40 others I stay in touch with. That’s 120 people I don’t talk to now.
Numbers don’t tell the real story though. Sure, I got responses from 60% of the people I contacted. But even if only one person responded and I had an awesome, amazing conversation with that person, it would have been worth it.
As it was, I had two awesome conversations–conversations where we connected strongly, shared each other’s challenges and successes, and inspired each other with ideas.
With two people, we had a brief back-and-forth, caught up with each other and wished each other luck in the future. Two others sent pleasant responses that didn’t evolve into a conversation, but helped maintain our prior relationship and kept us in touch.
The best result of the experiment? I had fun doing it. Every contact I thoroughly enjoyed.
The more I put myself out there, the better relationships I develop. I’m learning how to care about and help others in new ways, which is incredibly fulfilling.
And it’s getting easier. I feel more comfortable with each new person I contact.
My experiment wasn’t perfect. I decided to skip weekends, so that pushed the experiment out to 14 days. Then I missed two weekdays, making it take 16 days total to finish my experiment.
Last week I traveled to the Bay Area. I met several new people and reconnected with others in person, but I completely failed to continue the experiment that week.
But I’ll heed Hermione’s comment from my kick-off post:
Like all habits, there are days (weeks) when it gets drowned out, and I expect that might happen to you, too. But I always go back to it, because the human connection makes me feel good.
This week I plan to start again.
I learned a few things during my experiment.
If I don’t have any idea who I’m going to contact on a given day, I either don’t contact anyone at all or I spend too much time figuring out who to contact.
To solve this, I now have a list of people in Excel to contact. By reducing the effort required, I’m far more likely to create a habit out of this. I’m also more inspired in my connections, since I can choose the person based on my mood that day.
I don’t always use the list. The LinkedIn Connected app on my phone tells me key events in my contact’s lives. When an update inspires me to reconnect, I go with that inspiration.
On my desktop, I use the Keep In Touch on the Connections menu in LinkedIn to see people’s updates. Contact reminders also get shown here. I haven’t had much success with those in the past, but may try experimenting with those again.
When writing e-mails, I try to share information about myself and to ask questions about the person I’m contacting. I sometimes share links or other insights that I’ve learned recently that I think might be relevant.
I plan to continue the experiment and make it part of my daily rituals. I’ve proven to myself that it doesn’t take much time.
When re-connections happen, they can be so powerful and fulfilling. If you take the time to care about other people and connect with them, they’ll do the same for you.
I encourage you to try the experiment for yourself.
Spend 20 minutes to identify 10 people to contact, then spend 22 minutes a day over the next 10 days contacting and replying to people.
You’ll be amazed what those 4 hours do for your relationships and your own personal happiness.
Interested in re-connecting? Shoot me an e-mail or comment below.