6 degrees of proximity: it’s a small world

Remember the last time you were on vacation and that you met some of your compatriots. Ten to one you discovered in your conversation that you had a common contact. And this happens a lot on holidays, even more than in “normal” daily live. Why is this?

The first reason is that it IS a small world and the second that you took the time to explore the different ways you are related to each other.

On holidays we are more relaxed. And we are more open and more patient to listen. And moreover, since we don’t know the people we just met yet, we are still open and ready to explore ALL different areas of life.

When we meet other people in daily life it is almost always in a specific environment: colleagues at the office, business contacts at networking events, family at birthday parties,… In these environments we have a common interest that is already established, just by the nature of this context. That’s the reason why we tend to limit our information exchange and search for more common ground to (the topics of) this specific environment. Once we talked to people, we have put them in one or more categories in our minds (and/or in our databases). This is very normal behaviour. This is necessary for us to cope with all the information that we are bombarded with on a continuous basis. The disadvantage is that we only know snippets of people’s lives and miss lots of opportunities or interesting conversations. We also tend to talk about the subjects we already know this person is interested in. But everything changes, including us and all people from our network. And in an ever increasing pace.

Because we are only capable of knowing “parts” of other people, we are still surprised when we find out that we have something in common with someone. “It’s a small world” you hear from time to time (and this becomes a daily standard phrase when you become a real networker). And when two people discover that it is a small world indeed, you feel the atmosphere change. Suddenly there is more room for a relaxed posture, fun and trust.

In reality we indeed live in a small world. We are connected to anyone, ANYONE, on this planet via 6 people. This phenomenon is called the “6 degrees of separation”. In this network era where people are reconnecting, I’d like to change this name into “6 degrees of proximity”. If you can contact anyone on this earth via maximum 6 steps, then you are close and related to each other, instead of separated, don’t you agree?

Jan

PS: this is an excerpt from my upcoming book “Let’s Connect!”. Pre-register at www.letsconnect.be

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