We are incredibly grateful to have Darrell Vesterfelt as a guest blogger this week. Darrell Vesterfelt is the CEO of the Prodigal Media Group, a storytelling firm based in Minneapolis where he lives with his wife Ally. Darrell is the original #unblogger. You can connect with him on Twitter or call him at(612)802-5227.

How And Why to Get Connected and Stay Connected in 2013

“You’re so good at connecting with people,” my wife told me as we were driving home from an event a few weeks ago. She’s an introvert and marveled at the way I had navigated between multiple conversations with numerous people we had never met.
“I don’t know how you do it.” she said. “It just seems to come naturally to you.”
Part of me felt glad that she noticed.
Connecting has always been a strength of mine, not to mention a huge value. It’s always been important to me to continually connect with people I don’t know, and to foster those relationships over time. I’ve experienced first hand the way that these relationships enrich my life and the opportunities it gives me to enrich the lives of others.
I’ve spent much of my life cultivating this skill and it felt good that she noticed.
I told her that, even if it wasn’t naturally her strength, I could teach her a few simple things about how to connect with others. Here is what I told her.

1. Remember you matter more than you think you do. 
I think sometimes the thing that keeps us from connecting to people is that we’re overly modest about how much we matter. One thing we can do to get better at connecting is just get over our insecurity!
You have valuable skills, ideas and personality to offer to your community.
When we keep this in mind, it makes it easier to make the connections that would otherwise seem scary. We have as much to give to relationships as we have to receive.
2. Don’t be afraid of people who are different
It’s so easy to hang out with people who are like us. Most of us run in circles of people who are very similar to us, and rarely venture out because it’s more comfortable and safe when we don’t have to be confronted with the thought that we might not have everything figured out.
But we learn so much from people who are different from us. They teach us more about life than those who agree with us ever could.
Some of the deepest and richest relationships I have are with people who are different than me. If we can get over our fear of what’s “different” we’ll be much more likely to connect with people outside our usual circle.
3. Get over your fear of silence
Sometimes when you meet someone new, there will be lags in the conversation. That’s okay. It’s think time. If you always try to fill the silence with noise, you’ll either miss out on something the other person has to say, or you’ll avoid having a conversation altogether.
Don’t be afraid of silence. It isn’t awkward. It’s natural.
4. Learn to ask good questions
People love to talk about themselves. It isn’t a selfish thing, it’s just the thing we understand the best — our jobs, our lives, our hobbies.
One sure-fire way to start a conversation with someone is to ask them questions about themselves. Ask them what they do for a living, or what’s important, or what they think about a current event that interests you.
5. FInd a point of connection

No matter how different you are than someone, you can find a point of connection with them. Maybe you both like the same basketball team, or your parents grew up in the same area of the country. Keep asking questions until you find this point of connection.
Finding a point of connection helps to build the relationship and calm your anxiety and discomfort.
More than anything, remember that the people you’re connecting with are just people too! No matter how “important” the person is (by job title, or whatever else) they’re just a person like you are, a person who works, eats, sleeps and gets nervous too.
Are you good at connecting with people or could you use some help? How are you planning to make connections with people in 2013?