Don’t network: Talk to people instead

I know I’m not the only person out there who hates to network.

So I stopped doing it.

I do not network. Ever. I’ll tell you what I do instead, but first let’s look a little at the word. It’s just a collection of vowels and consonants—how have we invested it with the power to make us afraid? And I am definitely including myself in that “us.”

“Networking” hadn’t been invented when I was growing up, so I entered the business world a networking virgin. Eventually all the cool kids started doing it, but I still felt gangly and awkward whenever I tried.

If you’d asked me the definition of “networking” back then, I would have said something like, “Talking to people because I want something from them.”

I should have looked it up. Dictionary.com defines “networking” as:

a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest

“Supportive…sharing…” Nothing scary there. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary says:

the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically :  the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business

Okay, that “specifically” example makes me want to put on the brakes. Let’s try one more. Businessdictionary.com says “networking” is:

Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit.

I think I have enough information now to boil this down to a concise definition, something I can not only live with but enjoy. So my younger self’s definition of “networking” has morphed into:
Talking to people because I want something from them.”

Talking to people. That’s it. Networking is talking to people. And unless you live a very sheltered life, “talking to people” is something you do pretty much every day.

Network with authenticity

Once I take the self-centered part out, the conversation immediately feels more authentic. And that is exactly what BusinessDictionary.com means by “regular communication for mutual benefit.”

So I talk to people. And in talking to them, I am not waiting eagerly for them to stop flapping their gums so I can unload my elevator pitch. I am—what’s the word? It’s not used very much these days—oh, right: Listening.

I want to know whatever they want to tell me: Their challenges and joys; what’s working for them and what isn’t; where they feel they’re growing; where they want to grow.

Yes, at some point they’re going to ask me about myself, and I need to be ready with an answer. But the point is that I’m not forcing my story on them—I’m responding to their request to tell it. And I don’t know about you, but that feels a whole lot better to me.

Many people call this part where you talk instead of listen the “elevator pitch.” Personally, I hate that phrase. And I’ll tell you why during the free webinar I’ve put together to help you write yours:

Stuck in the Elevator? Create a pitch you love sharing

Click here for details. Join us—and never “network” again.