In "Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success," Adam Grant divides people into three groups: the givers, who give more than they receive; the takers, who take more than they give; and the matchers, who give tit for tat, even in an exchange of favors. I’ll come back to the groups in a minute.
Grant discusses a well-known study: People more often hear about a job opening from someone with whom they share a weak tie than from someone with whom they have a strong tie. That’s because people with strong ties to each other travel in the same circles, so they know about the same opportunities. People with weak ties, by contrast, open up access to other circles, generating original leads.
But it’s difficult to ask a weak tie for help. That’s where the group-categorization comes in: Givers can reconnect with a weak tie they helped years ago just because that person needed a helping hand. People remember who assisted them when they were struggling.
And if the person to whom the weak tie/giver reaches out is a matcher, he will go out of his way to even up the score and set the universe right.
Another thing for networkers to try: Reactivate a dormant tie. In contrast to a weak tie, a dormant tie is someone you knew well or saw often but with whom you’ve fallen out of contact. A series of studies shows that reconnections re-awakened feelings of trust, and the dormant ties provided fresh and useful information.
Grant writes, “When we need new information, we may run out of new ties quickly, but we have a large pool of dormant ties that prove to be helpful. And, the older we get, the more dormant ties we have, and the more valuable they become. [Researchers] found that people in their forties and fifties received more value from reactivating dormant ties than people in their thirties, who in turn benefited more than people in their twenties."
How do you build up a big bank of trust? Follow the five-minute rule that Grant quotes Adam Rivkin as laying out: "You should be willing to do something that will take you give minutes or less for anybody." So, pick up the phone, fire up the email, reconnect and be generous, and prosper.