How would it feel if I told you that the person with whom you most want to connect is less than 3.5 degrees of separation away from that interaction you so desire?
Don’t let that emotion pass, because if you believe the scientists at Facebook, it’s true. According to their research, “Within the US, people are connected to each other by an average of 3.46 degrees.”
Bygone are the days of six tedious degrees of separation (or Kevin Bacon, if you prefer). Thanks to our ever increasingly connected world, it’s that much easier to connect with anyone you want to know (if they’re not in the U.S., among the 1.59 billion people active on Facebook, the research shows it’s closer to 3.57 degrees of separation).
This is exciting news! Pair this fact with the tools you have at your disposal to sort out a direct path to your intended contact. Hop on Facebook and see if you have a mutual friend. Or, my preferred method is to get on LinkedIn and see what chain of connections it would take to get a warm introduction. Please note: neither of these will be as successful for you if you are not active on the platform, regularly adding your contacts to your digital network.
I ran an experiment to test out this theory by digging into my network to see how many points of connection stood between me and some of my business heroes. I researched Sara Blakely, Bethenny Frankel, Mark Cuban, Tony Tseih, Oprah, Ellen, and Tim Ferris. I was pleased to learn that in every case, I was only one degree of separation away, with the exception of Oprah at two.
Pretty powerful to consider that with a little online research and some asking around, I realized just how closely connected we were.
This becomes another key takeaway: The 3.46 number is an average. If you have strong relationships with super-connectors, you can often shortcut that figure.
Another important lesson: If the person you want to meet is in high demand (such as those on my list), you’ll want to take into consideration that the person who will ultimately hold the key to that introduction will need to deeply know, like, and trust you. Not all relationships are created equal, and some need to be handled with more discretion. It may take time, as well as building a sincere relationship with this person before they even consider opening the door for you.
I always suggest coming into all relationships with a giving lens, but not to manipulate. Trust that if you’re meant to meet this person, you will. If someone knows that you buttered them up to get to your ask, it will all go south, losing you that relationship as well as the potential new one.
Another goal to consider is to become a super-connector yourself. By going out into the world hoping to help people get closer to their goals, often through opening the right doors for them, you’ll grow a tremendous reputation and trust with people. Treat people as friends, not as pawns in your chess game to get you where you want to go. Not only will this pay off in the long run, but it will be a lot more rewarding and fun along the way.
Lastly, have a clear intention both when you meet this person as well as when you ask your connectors to open doors for you. Once that door is opened, be sure you’ve done your research. Never ask questions you could have learned on Google. Be curious, listen, and don’t force anything. Think of any first interaction like a first date: Ask good questions, listen more than you talk, and don’t ask for a commitment too soon.
Whom do you want to know? How many people stand between you and that person? Have you given in these relationships to warrant your seeking something from them? Are you clear on why you want to connect? Have you done your research on them? Are you ready to build a relationship and not create a transaction?
Once you feel confident in your answers to these questions, start connecting through your chain and make that contact!
Originally published at www.forbes.com