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Revel HQ
January 22, 2021

Author Q&A: Susan McPherson

All About Her New Book!

Well, I think most people have at some point in their lives, experienced the feeling of being left out—FOMO or “Fear of Missing Out.”

What role do you think technology plays when it comes to connection, and creating a community around us?

For many, technology has become a crutch when it comes to connecting. We rely too heavily on it. We have succumbed to this culture of transactional networking via social media. We have these massive networks of people online, but it becomes more about quantity, and less about quality—and when you do that, when you’re relying solely on the size instead of the depth of the community, you lose the humanity in it.  But on a more positive note, technology has allowed us to keep connected during the last 11 months of lock-down. And technology can be an excellent entry point to building deeper relationships.

You write that you grew up thinking that connecting with people regularly was a natural occurrence—in many ways because your parents were natural connectors. How did this idea become so central to who you are?

I watched my parents connect with others every day from the minute I woke up in the morning. I'd be vying at the breakfast table for space for my bowl of cereal, with my siblings, while my parents were clipping four or five morning newspapers to send articles to friends that might enjoy the story. (This was before the internet!) I just thought everyone did it that way, and it is absolutely something I carried with me—that natural desire to connect with others in a meaningful way and then watch the magic ensue.

In many ways you’re turning the traditional idea of networking on its head, saying that we should strive to create a constellation of relationships. What does that look like and how does this differ from the traditional networking model?

When I talk about how to build meaningful connections, I use the illustration of a constellation. There are 250 billion stars in the galaxy. Not all of them align in just the right way to make that special sight that is the constellation. And like networking, you never know just how you are connected to another person until you put in the work to see the patterns. I love this quote from Rebecca Solnit: “The stars we are given, the constellations we make.”  We have the power to create our own overlapping communities. The way to do this is not by asking “How can this person help me?” but “How can I help?” “Who can I connect this person with?” and “Who do I know that might be able to open a new door of opportunity for them?” This is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this method: not only the deeply nourishing relationships that you will develop, but also the ripple effect of connecting others—the brightly lit constellations that you will see among others. By doing this you’re also combining your personal and professional contacts, which allows you to fuse your work and life without burnout, overwhelm, or anxiety. This method—Gather, Ask, Do—will help you clarify your goals to expand that constellation with purpose.  

Can you explain the Gather, Ask, Do method?

For a long time I didn’t view it as a process. It was just what I observed from my parents and what I lived in the early years of my professional career. In recent years I started to put more of a framework around it to help others do this in a more effective way. In the “Gather” stage, you learn how to better connect with yourself, define your own business values and goals and determine how and who you can help. In the “Ask” phase, you learn how to truly offer to help and support in a meaningful way, as well as how to deepen your relationships while building a growing, vibrant, inclusive and diverse community. Then you have the “Do” phase. This is the most important phase—where you actually have to follow through and take action. This is where you build trust, confidence and a depth of connections by actually doing the things that you say you're going to do.

In the book you talk about going from FOMO to JOMO. Can you explain?

Well, I think most people have at some point in their lives, experienced the feeling of being left out—FOMO or “Fear of Missing Out.” The onset of social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook amplified that tenfold when you could see the party or dinner you weren’t invited to happening in real time.  But if you are the one hosting and inviting you no longer experience that fear of missing out. I created something called JOMO—The Joy of Meeting Others. I've always thought that everyone you meet is a conduit to another person. So, there is joy in that. Take it from FOMO to JOMO and actually become the host yourself and convene people. Don't take on the entire task of having to do all the inviting, you can ask four friends or four colleagues and ask each colleague to bring one friend. And voîlà, you're up to eight people.

You talk about first asking “How can I help you” not “How can this person help me?” Why is this approach so important, and how can we be more intentional about this?

Well first of all, it’s just good business. You don’t want to be the person who is taking, and not giving back. Asking “how can I help?” keeps the conversation going, and deepens the relationship for future conversations and future, deeper, more meaningful connection. It’s not about what you can get from other people, it’s about how you can help each other. What doors you can open. What opportunities you can present? What connections you can make. Keeping that constellation effect in mind means you’re always thinking how can I help this person. And the reality is you get what you give.

In the book you write about the importance of being a good listener when it comes to building relationships. What’s the best way to focus and become a better listener?

This can be one of the hardest skills to master, especially with the abundance of distractions we have, but the bottom line here is, if you don’t listen, you don’t learn. A few simple tricks that I have found to be helpful are things like confirming back to the person what you hear. It’s okay to repeat what the person said, right back to them. It's actually really helpful for your own memory. Another thing to keep in mind is to ask meaningful, thoughtful questions. And, never be shy to take notes. This is such a helpful way to enhance the act of listening, by writing down what they’re saying. A good tidbit is to watch the TED Talk by Dr. Julian Treasure. He's done many TED Talks but he did one specifically called How to Listen, which will give you everything you ever needed to know about becoming a better listener.

We remain in the middle of a global pandemic where people are struggling to connect virtually while being physically apart.  How can we create meaningful relationships right now?

Being apart from people for as long as we have been is hard. People are lonely, and loneliness can be harmful. It was a big problem before the pandemic, but has been exacerbated by it, for sure. But I will say that the biggest thing we can do is reach out to others. Don’t wait for people to reach out to you. A real healthy exercise right now—especially with the abundance of tools we have at our disposal. Make a habit of texting or emailing three friends or colleagues or clients every day. It'll take you all of 90 seconds. It doesn't have to be lengthy, it can just be, "I'm thinking of you." or, "How are you today?" Not only will it feel good doing it, but you will make the other person's day when you simply let that person know that you're thinking of them.

Do you have any tips for when we do finally get to reconnect in-person again with friends and colleagues to make the reverse transition successful?

I think for some people it will be hard. But I also think the joy that will come from actually being able to physically be in the same room with people again—and let's hope we can get there soon—and it will circumvent any kind of fear. I think we will adapt. We’ll remember. We will gather. We’ll talk, and walk, and hug, and share again. It might take us a little bit of time to get there, but it’s like riding a bike. When you first get back on, you're a little wobbly at first, but guess what? It works after about a quarter of a mile.

If readers take away just one thing from your book, what would you hope that it would be?

Building meaningful connections makes the world go around and it actually makes living (and working) a lot more fun.

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