When I give talks about networking, I usually start with the concept of reciprocity. Reciprocity means “give and take”. In other words, how can we expect something if we’re not willing to give it? Therefore, we should give first and expect second.
This is what most networking theorists claim.
Yet you can go a step further and say that your shouldn’t even expect from the specific people you made a favour to. Just give in general, and something will come back. Perhaps not from those very people, but from your network. Call it networking karma.
This is what the almost complete rest of networking theorists will tell you.
What almost nobody will tell you is that you shouldn’t expect at all. That you should give regardless of what comes back. “Why should I do so?!”, you’ll go. “Because you genuinely like people”, I’ll answer.
There are two main reasons why should like people. The first one is that every person is interesting. If you think a certain person is boring, it’s because you didn’t ask them the right questions. Each and every person is unique, and can teach you something. And you can add value to each and every person’s life.
The second reason you should like people is that, at the end of the day, we are all human, and we are all just trying to get by. Call it universal compassion.
“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual.” – Aristotle
Before they come see me, a lot of my clients have already been networking. Some of them have been practicing for years! Yet the question is almost always the same: “Why aren’t my networking efforts being successful?”. Turns out, they go around asking without having ever given. Or they do give, but are always expecting something back. From specific people, or from their network in general.
The first thing we do together, even before talking about networking techniques and strategies, is take a step back from business or any kind of goals they might have and go through the above points, until we internalise universal compassion.
Magically enough, things start moving in another direction for these people, as they no longer come across as needy and pushy, and thus are much more pleasant to be around. Also, they experience less disappointment and frustration, as they have learned to manage their expectations. This way, they not only become efficient at networking, but also enjoy it a lot more.
How about you? Have you ever heard of universal compassion, or maybe even applied it? Let me know!