In today’s digitally-connected era, the misconception that thousands of followers or Facebook friends indicate true connections or friendships is mis-guided. Science and Robin Dunbar (Dunbar’s number) indicates that as humans, we can maintain about 150 social relationships with as little as 5 to 15 being in our inner circle.

So what have we lost and what have we gained? The ability to read body language, communicate more effectively in social settings and engage without a device between you and your connection is growing and even personally I find that watching instead of participating is “safer”.

So how can we connect more? An old friend (more than a decade ago) shared his rule for getting to know someone (and really just good manners) was to leave your cellphone in your handbag or pocket. If you are waiting on a call (perhaps you have children), leave the phone, face down on the table out of reach.

Rule 1: No social media at the dinner table

What else? Whenever you attend an event, our instinct is to hide behind our devices. This sends a MASSIVE “do not engage” signal to anyone around you. In return, it makes it harder when you do eventually need to “connect” but no one seems interested. Funny isn’t it.

Rule 2: keep our body language open, use devices minimally and smile to create a more open rapport.

Anything fundamental? When chatting to someone you’ve just met or even someone you know, try and NOT discuss work or what you do. Show interest in them, ask questions about their families, their friends, their interests. This opens the possibility for discussion work later and you’ve learnt some aspects about that person you may need at a later stage.

Rule #3: when connecting, ask questions about anything else but business. Get to know the person and the business will follow.

More tips on connecting to follow. For now, remember, everyone has the same fears and needs. Put yourself in the other persons position and be mindful that sometimes people are going through things that cannot be left at home.