Watch people’s face when you bring up “networking.” You’d think someone said a bad, offensive word. Most people’s reaction to the idea of networking can be nothing short of loathing. Of course this isn’t everyone, but many of us are not enthusiastically looking for the chance to strike up conversation with “random” people.
Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, Ivan Misner gave four reasons in an Entrepreneur article as to why people avoid networking opportunities despite its obvious benefits for professionals. Individuals tend to fall within one or more of the following groups: they’re not confident, too busy, too impatient for results, and/or they don’t want to sell or be sold to.
I tend to agree with these categorizations. When attending business conferences, I frequently sense that people are reluctant to introduce themselves and chat with others. Why? They perceive the other attendees as strangers—and mother always said, “Don’t talk to strangers.” But these don’t tend to be the type of strangers she was talking about. These are people you need to meet—so how do you meet them? You stick out your hand, tell them your name, and smile. Simple as that.
There are those that ruin the idea of networking for the rest of us though. I have actually walked away from people when they were looking over my head for their next victim and really not listening to what I was saying. They’re appalled, and so I ask them: “Can you tell me the last three things that I said?” They don’t know, because they weren’t listening to me. If I cannot look people in the eye throughout a conversation—for example, when they approach me as I’m packing up after a presentation—I reassure them that I am still listening. Networking, communication, sharing: it’s a matter of respect.