When you build relationships do you build it for the long term or for a short term? I am sure the answer to this question is obvious. But do you focus on building relationships with your strong ties or with your weak ties?
As a power networker and a professional I was always astonished from the fact that many people focus on building strong relationships only with their strong ties, i.e. people they know well and they have stronger relationships with. Within our modern society is seems obvious that the better we know someone and the stronger the relationships is, the most valuable it is for us. Really?
During the years I found out that when you are dealing with building relationship, expanding your business, going out of your circle of routine, it is actually counter-intuitive. It is not the strong ties that can be the most beneficial; in fact, weak ties can be sometimes far more valuable! By weak ties I refer to people that you might not know that well or acquaintances.
Sociologists identify strong and weak ties as the main types of relationships in a social network. Your strong ties are your family, friends, close co-workers and people you associate with frequently. Weak ties might be childhood friends you don’ t speak to regularly or your local librarian. Strong ties are limited in number for someone, because they require more time and effort to keep up. You can only see and associate with so many people on a regular basis. Weak ties have fewer limits — you can handle many more of them.
Recently, I came across an interesting paper published in 1973 by the sociologist Mark Granovetter, titled: “The Strength of Weak Ties”. Granovetter explains in this paper the value of weak ties. One of the interesting statements in this paper is “All bridges are weak ties” – Granovetter compare the weak ties to a bridge between every person and information that we might not otherwise have access to. Weak ties enable reaching populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong ties
One of the main differences between strong ties and weak ties is the need to spent a lot of time to build and maintain the relationships. While strong ties require a lot of effort to maintain, this is not the case when you are dealing with weak ties. Thus, it allows you to have more weak ties.
Please do not get me wrong, as a person who really believe in relationships for the long term, I also know that many times, especially when you give sincere attention to other people, a weak tie may grow into a strong tie. But you need to remember that also weak ties, which do not develop into strong ties, still are very valuable to you. So don’t let them simply forgotten and disappeared.
The best example I can think of is your social networks friends. We all know that we cannot maintain all the relationships with your contacts on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and any other social network. Think how you use Facebook or LinkedIn for example. Are all of your relationships “strong ties?” Do you count all of your connections as good friends? Or are they colleagues who you occasionally interact with? Are they important to you at all? Should they be? I bet that many of these relationships are weak ties relationships, but you are still able to maintain them.
You’ll probably find several sets of weak ties in your social networks once you start to look. Do you connect with them? Do you watch their activity feeds? Do they look at your feeds to keep in touch?
Sometimes it goes unnoticed, but our weak ties are the ones who help us many times to connect to others, both offline and online. Remember the last time you asked someone you know (but not necessarily you have a strong relationship with) to connect you with somebody you are trying to reach or to get you a special discount etc.
For many years this kind of behavior seemed to me as ‘using’ another person. I could not tolerate it. It took me time, but I got to realized the difference between strong and weak ties. And as long as you are not doing it too often and you explain yourself correctly, people will be happy to help. And as I said, sometimes it even got me closer to some people and we strengthen our relationships.
Another interesting point is that many of our stronger ties relationships, typically have access and know similar people as ourselves. Our friends are often a part of a close-knit group who largely know one another. Our acquaintances are far less likely to know one another. So it means that if you want to get to know somebody or to get information out of your circle of influence, weak ties connections may be a better option. A weak tie connection can be a real bridge and a real value connector between you and information or people that you do not have direct access to.
Connecting with your weak ties means you will get more access to other people; you will get more access to valuable information; you will probably improve your personal productivity. You will be able to maintain beside your few strong ties also building relationship with a lot more weak ties.
Weak ties are important both in external networking and internal networking (within one company). We should find new ways to facilitate and enable people, also within one organization, to build these weak ties. These weak ties are crucial in binding groups of strong ties together. They bring circles of networks into contact with each other, strengthening relationships and forming new bonds between existing relationship circles.
Suggestion – try every week to identify 3 new weak ties that you have developed and send them a quick message. Watch for the interesting results you will create.
The value of strong ties is the relationship itself, while the value of weak ties is in their number and diversity. Keep nurturing your strong ties relationship but on the same time please do not ignore your weak ties relationship. Both are valuable to you in different ways!
Try to think on the enormous possibilities if we connect weak ties of two different people together….What are your thoughts?
Do you want me to help you explore your weak ties and strong ties and create a new flow of clients to your company? Contact me to find out!