One key concept we use to help people understand the process of building more connections is to recognize the critical role of "gatekeepers" in our lives. In more of an academic analysis the gatekeeper is someone already accepted in a community who offer their support, endorsement, or acceptance of the new-comer. This juxtaposition between someone already valued and the new-comer creates a lift to this new person. When people see, or hear someone they like or trust, endorse someone (or something) new, they are more prone to accept that new person (or thing) themselves. It is sort of an endorsement and sociologists call this "social influence theory," and it is more powerful than you think.
What is even more powerful is that the endorsement of the gatekeeper has both an external as well as an internal impact. That is, and as stated above, when people around the gatekeeper see their actions toward something they begin to become more accepting. This is the external effect of social influence theory. But more, there is an internal validation that the new-comer experiences that affects self-esteem, self-confidence, and feeling better about oneself.
In training's I do on this concept, I sometimes use an exercise that illustrates this internal impact. After discussing the concept of the gatekeeper, I will ask people to take a minute and reflect on gatekeepers in their life. I ask them to write down their names and to jot down the experience they had with these gatekeepers. Then I roam around the training room and ask volunteers to share a gatekeeper story.
Invariably, respondents offer these powerful, warm memories of these parents, teachers, coaches, relatives, ministers and the like, who were there for them, who propped them up, saw something in them that they couldn't see in themselves. Powerful, loving and sometimes tearful reflections, that are incredibly validating.
So stop now, and think about the important gatekeepers who have impacted your life. More, if you still have a relationship with this person stop now and reach out - call - go visit with this person - and tell them how much they influenced your life.
Never miss a moment to tell someone how important they are (or were) to you!