When you hear the sentence, “this is a great networking event”, do you smile and get excited or do you sigh and cringe a little? Or cringe a lot?

When I hear it, I have to admit, I have a mixed reaction. On one hand I get excited for the opportunity to meet new people, while on the other hand, once I get to the event I am usually miserable. That’s because its all small talk and as an introvert I don’t care for small talk at all.

Small Talk

“Hi my name is Sherrie Dunlevy, and you are…?”

“Oh you work for….?”

“What is it you do?

”How long have you worked there?” 

“Married?” 

“Have children?” 

“How many?”

UGH.. for me this is excruciating. 

To me, most networking events seem so superficial in that these events are set up for small talk and not really relationship building

Small talk is something I can do, but prefer not to do, because it seems rather boring and impersonal and as an introvert it zaps all my energy.

Small talk to me, seems more like an exchange of personal data but not a way to establish a real relationship.

And when you build a good relationship, you know, like and trust that person. 

That’s not just good for building a business. 

That’s good for building a life with filled with good people.

I’m a woman who likes to dive into conversations. 

I like to find out what’s important to a person. 

Why they choose the profession they’re in.  And it’s hard to engage in a conversation like this when you are juggling cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. 

So most people stick to the small talk or deliver their elevator pitches to one another.

Building Relationships

If you need to network but really don’t like the small talk, you might want to try a structured networking group.

I prefer structured networking. There is an agenda and a formula you follow that leads to solid relationship building.

I’m a member of my local chapter of BNI (Business Networking International).

Each week we meet with the goal of getting to better know one another so we can build relationships. 

We do this through a 60 second delivery of our “ elevator pitch” . 

By being educated by a featured member who has a 10  minute presentation and by setting up individual meetings with each other to take a deeper dive into our conversations.

Structured networking works for me because its a mix of the small talk, live presentations, and the building of personal relationships through more meaningful conversations. 

But BNI is for building relationships for businesses.

  • What if you want to build relationships within your business?
  • Within your community?
  • Within your volunteer base?

How can you build relationships that build bonding, trust, and camaraderie?

How about setting up a Values Jam?

Values Jam

Late in 2021, I was introduced to Alan Williams the from the UK by our mutual friend Darren Evans who is the creator of After Cloud (also from the UK). 

Darren felt that Alan and I should know one another and so introduced us via an email.

Alan is one of the creators of a card deck called ValuesJam 

Shortly after our introduction he invited me to a zoom call so we could do our own ValuesJam.

The experience I had was so amazing, I immediately ordered a set for myself and a set for my friend.

In the course of a single zoom meeting Alan and I, who were virtual strangers, were able to begin the process of building a meaningful relationship simply by selecting a ValuesJam Card and answering the questions on on the back.

What is ValuesJam?

ValuesJam is a card deck that connects people through values-led conversations. We all have values.

Our values guide our choices, decisions and actions. 

A ValuesJam helps us to talk about our values with each other, and learn about what is important to you as well as to other people. 

This leads to a better understanding of each other and the choices we make or the positions we take on various subjects.

Values Jams help us to better understand one another. And the hope is that better understanding can lead to living in harmony with one another. 

How to ValuesJam

A ValuesJam deck contains 60 cards. On the front of each card is listed a single value. On the back are a set of questions to guide your conversation.

During our first ValuesJam, Alan asked me to select a card through a random process.

After shuffling the cards, I was asked how many times I wanted the deck cut.  Then he asked me to select one of the stacks. He then counted the cards in that stack and asked me to pick a number between 1 and however many cards are in that stack. I gave him the first number that popped into my head, he turned the card over and we began our conversation.

What You Learn

As we began the conversation, it was truly about learning what that value on the card means to you. How do you feel about it? What comes to mind when you think about it? Does it look like anything? What feelings come up around it? Does it have a sound?

These might seem like odd questions, but they really support a deeper thought process and draw out answers that might be surprising to you.

Then after you answer the questions, the other person does the same. 

More questions can come from just this initial set of questions, but the other questions on the card, help you to dig deeper.

  • Where have you noticed a lack in this value?
  • When have you experienced this value?
  • How could more of this value improve the world?

And then the jam ends with this question:

What are you encouraged to do differently about this value as a result of our conversation?

In a ValuesJam, you don’t just talk the talk, you are also encouraged to walk the talk!

August 2022 ValuesJam

Our most recent ValuesJam was recorded. After going through the card selection process I got the word SUSTAINABILITY.

If I’m being honest I have to admit, I was a little disappointed to have this word. I mean, of all the values out there, to me this one seemed a little ho-hum. That is, until we started talking about it. (That’s why Alan says when you pick a word, you need to talk about that word, not pick another card)

Alan and I talked for 45 minutes on this one word.  It lead to such rich conversation about a topic I never knew could really be so important and meaningful to us both.

For me, it started with connecting the word SUSTAINABILITY to our environment and by the end, it lead to me having a deeper understanding of how important that value is to my emotional and physical well being.

In our conversation about SUSTAINABILITY Alan and I also talked about discipline, grief, health, meaningful memories, legacy, and so many other things. 

Alan shared with me a sweet memory of a person he loved dearly who died. He mentioned how her favorite food was fish and chips and so once a year they eat Fish and Chips to fondly remember her.

I shared with him, how I recently felt a set back in career path. But have renewed energy to keep it going.

How those things came out of a conversation about SUSTAINABILITY is fascinating to me.

You can watch out ValuesJam here: 

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