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Social Chemistry: Decoding the Elements of Human Connection

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Social Chemistry will utterly transform the way you think about “networking.” Understanding the contours of your social network can dramatically enhance personal relationships, work life, and even your global impact. Are you an Expansionist, a Broker, or a Convener? The answer matters more than you think. . . .  Yale professor Marissa King shows how anyone can build more m Social Chemistry will utterly transform the way you think about “networking.” Understanding the contours of your social network can dramatically enhance personal relationships, work life, and even your global impact. Are you an Expansionist, a Broker, or a Convener? The answer matters more than you think. . . .  Yale professor Marissa King shows how anyone can build more meaningful and productive relationships based on insights from neuroscience, psychology, and network analytics. Conventional wisdom says it's the size of your network that matters, but social science research has proven there is more to it. King explains that the quality and structure of our relationships has the greatest impact on our personal and professional lives. As she shows, there are three basic types of networks, so readers can see the role they are already playing: Expansionist, Broker, or Convener. This network decoder enables readers to own their network style and modify it for better alignment with their life plans and values. High-quality connections in your social network strongly predict cognitive functioning, emotional resilience, and satisfaction at work. A well-structured network is likely to boost the quality of your ideas, as well as your pay. Beyond the office, social connections are the lifeblood of our health and happiness. The compiled results from dozens of previous studies found that our social relationships have an effect on our likelihood of dying prematurely—equivalent to obesity or smoking. Rich stories of Expansionists like Vernon Jordan, Brokers like Yo-Yo Ma, and Conveners like Anna Wintour, as well as personal experiences from King's own world of connections, inform this warm, engaging, revelatory investigation into some of the most consequential decisions we can make about the trajectory of our lives.


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Social Chemistry will utterly transform the way you think about “networking.” Understanding the contours of your social network can dramatically enhance personal relationships, work life, and even your global impact. Are you an Expansionist, a Broker, or a Convener? The answer matters more than you think. . . .  Yale professor Marissa King shows how anyone can build more m Social Chemistry will utterly transform the way you think about “networking.” Understanding the contours of your social network can dramatically enhance personal relationships, work life, and even your global impact. Are you an Expansionist, a Broker, or a Convener? The answer matters more than you think. . . .  Yale professor Marissa King shows how anyone can build more meaningful and productive relationships based on insights from neuroscience, psychology, and network analytics. Conventional wisdom says it's the size of your network that matters, but social science research has proven there is more to it. King explains that the quality and structure of our relationships has the greatest impact on our personal and professional lives. As she shows, there are three basic types of networks, so readers can see the role they are already playing: Expansionist, Broker, or Convener. This network decoder enables readers to own their network style and modify it for better alignment with their life plans and values. High-quality connections in your social network strongly predict cognitive functioning, emotional resilience, and satisfaction at work. A well-structured network is likely to boost the quality of your ideas, as well as your pay. Beyond the office, social connections are the lifeblood of our health and happiness. The compiled results from dozens of previous studies found that our social relationships have an effect on our likelihood of dying prematurely—equivalent to obesity or smoking. Rich stories of Expansionists like Vernon Jordan, Brokers like Yo-Yo Ma, and Conveners like Anna Wintour, as well as personal experiences from King's own world of connections, inform this warm, engaging, revelatory investigation into some of the most consequential decisions we can make about the trajectory of our lives.

30 review for Social Chemistry: Decoding the Elements of Human Connection

  1. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    The author divides people into 3 different types of networkers: expansionists, brokers, and conveners. She goes on to explain each one and give examples, but it read like a dry business book when I was expecting more interesting social psychology. I gave up halfway through after several months because I don’t want to force myself to read anymore. Life is short, read Malcolm Gladwell. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    Networking is generally seen as a necessary evil, and talking about it strategically can practically get you labelled a sociopath or a user. In that sense this is quite a brave book. Whether it's truly a useful book is less clear, as I don't think the author actually provides cast-iron evidence that most people's networking styles can truly change. Professor King proposes three main networking styles, each with its strengths and weaknesses. The simplest one to understand is the hub-and-spoke netw Networking is generally seen as a necessary evil, and talking about it strategically can practically get you labelled a sociopath or a user. In that sense this is quite a brave book. Whether it's truly a useful book is less clear, as I don't think the author actually provides cast-iron evidence that most people's networking styles can truly change. Professor King proposes three main networking styles, each with its strengths and weaknesses. The simplest one to understand is the hub-and-spoke networker, whom she dubs Expansionists. Oddly enough, a classic example of this type is LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman! Despite the fact that he created one of the most successful social networking services in the world, he once told me in no uncertain terms that he is not a joiner in any way -- he strongly prefers one-to-one relationships, and that style is reflected in LinkedIn's almost complete lack of true group-oriented features. Ultimately the limit of the Expansionist style is the ever-increasing amount of time it requires to maintain all those discrete ties, as anyone who has tried to get a meeting with Reid in the last 15 years can tell you. The next most straightforward networking style is what the author dubs Conveners. This is the type described in unforgettable terms by Biggie Smalls: "tell your friends to get with my friends and we can BE friends". The upside of Convening is high trust and cohesion, which can make it faster to get out of the blocks on new projects; but the downside is groupthink and (although she doesn't dwell on this) the high-cost of intra-group drama. Solutions that work well in the sorority house or the 5-person startup aren't necessarily going to scale to major corporations, especially in an era marked by such a strong need for diversity of thought. King devotes by far the most time to what she calls Brokers, which are the type of networker that makes others the most uneasy. Brokers are those who derive their power from maintaining ties to multiple DIFFERENT groups or representatives thereof. In most tech companies, these would be product managers who have to interface with marketing, engineering, design, sales, etc. This turns out to be the most efficient way to network, but those who employ this style are frequently seen as inauthentic free-riders who seek to profit from the expertise of others. I certainly have been known to ask what product managers are actually good at, especially when I as an engineering manager have to attend their meetings AND my meetings. But insofar as this book offers truly novel insights, most of them are from the sections about Brokers. The three networking styles are the core of the argument, but the details are fleshed out by a veritable pointillist painting of examples from organizational psychology and sociology -- and many of these can yield helpful tactics. For instance, it turns out that former coworkers you haven't seen in 10 years are more helpful than your closest friends if you're looking for a job! Professor King is a powerful and tireless synthesizer, and I think this book would be a good starting point for those who have not yet read the works of Adam Grant, David Epstein, or Herminia Ibarra. The book's endnotes are exceptionally useful and well-written, and if you find yourself intrigued by a particular point they're a great guide to further reading. Full disclosure: my long-time business partner, Adam Rifkin, is mentioned in the book and he lent me a review copy from the author.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Scott Wozniak

    The author identifies three styles of relating to others: brokers, conveners and expansionists. Brokers have multiple pools of friends/colleagues who are very diverse--they are the go-between with one foot in both worlds. Conveners have deep connections and introduce all their connections to each other, forming an overlapping community of friendships. Expansionists have a lot of friends but are generally less connected and less vulnerable with them all. But while that's interesting, it's only a The author identifies three styles of relating to others: brokers, conveners and expansionists. Brokers have multiple pools of friends/colleagues who are very diverse--they are the go-between with one foot in both worlds. Conveners have deep connections and introduce all their connections to each other, forming an overlapping community of friendships. Expansionists have a lot of friends but are generally less connected and less vulnerable with them all. But while that's interesting, it's only a part of the book. Study after study is cited in this book, from whether having friends at work is more helpful for harmful (answer: helpful), whether men and women can be friends or they always end up having attraction feelings (answer: the majority of people don't have strong attraction feelings for their other-gendered friends, even when single) to whether the six degrees from Kevin Bacon game is actually true for real life (answer: yes, even when you don't include Kevin Bacon!). In fact, that's why I don't give it five stars--the book has such a smorgasbord of relationship studies to discuss that they aren't all fully unpacked and it loses a sense of focus. But it was still interesting to read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vinayak

    Social Chemistry is one of the most insightful books I’ve read on social networks and human behavior. Professor King has done a masterful job on her research and explained complex concepts in understandable and entertaining prose. Her analyses on the networks of Jeffrey Sonnenfeld to Cosimo de’ Medici to Shep Gordon and Rick Warren are illuminating.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Haley

    I received a free copy of this book through the Goodreads giveaway. The only way to read this book is with a highlighter, pen, and notepad. Each chapter delivers sound advice with several eye-opening facts and research studies. This is perfect for anyone who is entering the stage where networking and interpersonal skills are becoming more significant. I'll definitely be keeping this one on my bookshelf! I received a free copy of this book through the Goodreads giveaway. The only way to read this book is with a highlighter, pen, and notepad. Each chapter delivers sound advice with several eye-opening facts and research studies. This is perfect for anyone who is entering the stage where networking and interpersonal skills are becoming more significant. I'll definitely be keeping this one on my bookshelf!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Ward

    I quite enjoyed it and found the book fascinating drawing parallels to user research and interacting with those within and outside a specific circle.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kalle Wescott

    I read /Social Chemistry: Decoding the Elements of Human Connection/, by Marissa King: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-re... Malcolm Gladwell, in /The Tipping Point/, broke useful networkers and businesspeople down in to Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople (https://pacific-edge.info/2018/06/gla...). King's three important roles in business and social networking are Expansionists, Brokers, and Conveners. King cites many studies and her own research related to how we form our friendships and busin I read /Social Chemistry: Decoding the Elements of Human Connection/, by Marissa King: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-re... Malcolm Gladwell, in /The Tipping Point/, broke useful networkers and businesspeople down in to Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople (https://pacific-edge.info/2018/06/gla...). King's three important roles in business and social networking are Expansionists, Brokers, and Conveners. King cites many studies and her own research related to how we form our friendships and business networks, with significant interesting data and many fascinating anecdotes. I wish she could have woven the disparate threads together into its own network of related and unified thoughts.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Wallace

    Social Chemistry will utterly transform the way you think about “networking.” Understanding the contours of your social network can dramatically enhance personal relationships, work life, and even your global impact. Are you an Expansionist, a Broker, or a Convener? The answer matters more than you think. . . . A must read. A very good self help guide.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Janis Caplan

    This is a book that has much to teach about interpersonal relationships. Beyond its applications to the work place it also explores the social dynamics in the connections we make within our families, with our friends and into our communities. There are valuable insights here, grounded in research and science and brought to life through personal stories. I highly recommend it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Eric Sall

    This book explores human networks and the three key styles people have - expansionists, conveners and brokers. Humanized with specific anecdotes, the book was mainly a synthesis of dozens of related research topics. (Support for this observation: about 30% of the page count was bibliography and index!) While there were some thought-provoking insights, a lot of this felt familiar from articles I had read or training classes I had taken. I think I would have gotten more out of this if there was mo This book explores human networks and the three key styles people have - expansionists, conveners and brokers. Humanized with specific anecdotes, the book was mainly a synthesis of dozens of related research topics. (Support for this observation: about 30% of the page count was bibliography and index!) While there were some thought-provoking insights, a lot of this felt familiar from articles I had read or training classes I had taken. I think I would have gotten more out of this if there was more advice on how to build, improve, or get more value from your network, or advice for companies on how to encourage the most productive behaviors.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Zoch

    The most important people book The book is filled with extensive amounts of research and insight that allows you to think differently or come to a conclusion around a problem you are having at work.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    So everyone hates networking, because it is contrived and awkward. But actually the quality of the relationship matters much more than the quantities. There are 3 types of people: 1. Convenes are most of us: strong and closed social ties, where all our friends also know each other. Lots of support given and expected, feel loved. But limited reach. 2. Expansionists are rare: many many friends but shallow ties, people go to them for problems/introductions. Great reach but can feel lonely, and high So everyone hates networking, because it is contrived and awkward. But actually the quality of the relationship matters much more than the quantities. There are 3 types of people: 1. Convenes are most of us: strong and closed social ties, where all our friends also know each other. Lots of support given and expected, feel loved. But limited reach. 2. Expansionists are rare: many many friends but shallow ties, people go to them for problems/introductions. Great reach but can feel lonely, and high risk of burnout. 3. Brokers are people who have moderate connections across different domains. Able to withhold information and get promoted more especially as middle managers. But viewed sometimes with suspicion by Conveners. To be better at connecting, put away your phone and look at the other person. Then just listen without judgement. Workers are also divided 2: people who mix work and life, and people who separate them. Both have its pros and cons. A lot of information is given in this business book of social ties. A solid 4 star.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katiw

    I think that this book is very Interesting, and it was my first reading on social chemistry. I think that the way that Marisa King wrote this book was very powerful. King wrote this book in a way I could understand and really explained social chemistry and how it is about making the connections with people. Once I started this book I could not stop. I picked this book up in the Air port and I was half way done by the time I was off the plane. I found it interesting And found myself thinking abou I think that this book is very Interesting, and it was my first reading on social chemistry. I think that the way that Marisa King wrote this book was very powerful. King wrote this book in a way I could understand and really explained social chemistry and how it is about making the connections with people. Once I started this book I could not stop. I picked this book up in the Air port and I was half way done by the time I was off the plane. I found it interesting And found myself thinking about if I was an expansionist, Broker, or convector? After reading and thinking about which one I am I think Im mixed which Is a good thing. I would definitely recommend this book. I think that this book Is eye opening and is very interesting and made me think about myself when reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alana

    This book was interesting enough. I wanted to get out there an expand my reading to genres I don't usually read, so a book about networking and connecting socially with others seemed a good fit. There are definitely parts with great insight/knowledge, I just found myself a bit bored. Maybe because it isn't my genre. But hey, there's great research and insight that went into this book, and for that I appreciate it. This book was interesting enough. I wanted to get out there an expand my reading to genres I don't usually read, so a book about networking and connecting socially with others seemed a good fit. There are definitely parts with great insight/knowledge, I just found myself a bit bored. Maybe because it isn't my genre. But hey, there's great research and insight that went into this book, and for that I appreciate it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Miguel

    One’s enjoyment of this will likely depend on how much one places stock in their social network, especially related to work situations. The framework seems suitable for many modern workplace conditions, but might not lend itself to those in the past or perhaps the future. It was an interesting enough to keep listening to it but it just didn’t resonate personally. Then again this might be just the trick for others as they try to navigate their way through their own work social structure.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Robertson Kunz

    There are different ways that people connect socially with others. The book explores these three archetypes (Expansionists, Brokers, Conveners), however, for me, the most interesting parts were the small tidbits inserted from various studies. For example, people who wore fake sunglasses (vs. real sunglasses) in one study were more likely to lie and cheat. Touching people makes them more likely to comply with your request and see you as "friendly". There are different ways that people connect socially with others. The book explores these three archetypes (Expansionists, Brokers, Conveners), however, for me, the most interesting parts were the small tidbits inserted from various studies. For example, people who wore fake sunglasses (vs. real sunglasses) in one study were more likely to lie and cheat. Touching people makes them more likely to comply with your request and see you as "friendly".

  17. 5 out of 5

    Byron Flores

    I did not find her point: there is a model of relationships that does not fit for everything but the author tries to sell it. Afterwards she starts to talk about work-life balance with any specific link with the whole book. I was looking for a book to improve my networking skills but this definitely was not the right one.

  18. 5 out of 5

    The Jewellers

    Venus Jewellers is one of the famous jewellery shops in Warangal which has started its journey as a retail showroom in the year 1986 at Hanamkonda, Warangal & successfully opened its brand new branch at Chikkadpally, Hyderabad Venus Jewellers is one of the famous jewellery shops in Warangal which has started its journey as a retail showroom in the year 1986 at Hanamkonda, Warangal & successfully opened its brand new branch at Chikkadpally, Hyderabad

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    It is a small world after all.... I very much enjoyed reading this book and learning how we are all connected through various networks. Congratulations Marissa on a wonderful book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    LaShel Shaw

  21. 5 out of 5

    Martyna

  22. 4 out of 5

    Colette

  23. 4 out of 5

    TEELOCK Mithilesh

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mike Patterson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Danica

  26. 4 out of 5

    Wren

  27. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Mills

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  29. 4 out of 5

    Davood Gozli

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Merten

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