“At the core of our relationship with work [people] is the psychological contract — comprised of our perceptions and beliefs concerning the exchange agreement that exists between ourselves and our employer [clients].” – Dr. Marla Gottschalk.

If we start out with the wrong notion about networking, developing relationships with other people, then we are immediately put on the back foot and for sure, relationships will be ‘harder’ and take much more energy.

When I say the ‘wrong notion’, I mean “is your perspective and point of view about networking serving you and others?” 

Let me give you my honest perspective of what networking means to me: Endless opportunities, amazing people, fantastic experiences, wonderful discoveries, masses of new business, freedom, adventure and ultimately an encounter with another person which could end up changing the world.  

It doesn’t mean that I am never scared, it won’t take away the nerves and it certainly doesn’t mean not taking risks or facing rejection. But my ‘excited’ mind set will far outweigh the negatives, meaning I more often than not ‘get on with it’.

Other perspectives of networking include the feeling it’s superficial, false, it’s nepotistic, wrong, empty, shallow, impersonal, one-sided, there’s always a hidden agenda etc. 

Step 1: Change the Word

Your mind set, attitude and perspective of networking will ultimately determine your experience. Therefore, based on your experience this will continue to shape your mind set. It’s a vicious circle. If relationships are important to you, the way to change this is to ask yourself these questions:

  • “Does your perspective about networking serve you?” 
  • “Where did your perspective about networking come from?”

Now, the mere mention of the word ‘networking’ is enough for some to go and stick their head in a bucket of sand, but if I use other words such as team effort, leadership, being of service to others, helping people, changing lives, gaining knowledge and insights, personal development – and so on, how would you feel about it then?

So step one is if you don’t like the word networking, change it to something that inspires you instead. That isn’t cheating, because if you stood back and looked at the skills needed to simply communicate with people – it’s all the same stuff. Skills like listening, curiosity, opinions, caring, consideration, respect, confidence etc. You could line up most corporate behaviours and competency requirements and these will be what makes someone a great ‘networker, communicator and leader.

Step 2: Change the Role Model

It is always interesting asking a group of people who dislike ‘networking’ how they came to dislike it so much. More often than not the following experiences and observations will be identified:

  • Watching people brown nose is horrible.
  • Why can’t I be noticed for my work and performance rather than being forced to talk to people I don’t like.
  • I hate small talk.
  • I don’t like strangers.
  • It feels so false and superficial.
  • It takes up so much time and can’t guarantee a return on my time.
  • Everyone knows each other and I feel left out.

Step 2 is all about how you want to show up, how you want to treat other people. Never let a poor example be your role model and hence turn you off from trying. It absolutely does not have to be like that. Why lose out on some extraordinary experiences because you noticed an idiot doing it bad or you were on the receiving end of poor behaviour. 

Step 3: Take Time

When you look at the psychology of building relationships with other people, part of what is playing out is the ‘pressure’ from our bosses, performance targets and to some degree, time. The time factor can become fairly important as well. If we are not naturally drawn to make time to develop relationships with key people inside our organisations and for that matter, with people outside our organisations, what will happen is that we run out of time. What do I mean by this? Well your career is going to change. This normally takes the shape of something unexpected. Sometimes through our own desire, other times by issues outside of our control or something like your face no longer fits. But for sure, something is going to change your career. There is a good chance we don’t know when.

Now reflect for a moment, if you had a word that inspired you to want to develop relationships and if you became your own role model for how you want to treat people, do you think you might invest more time anyway?

Step 3 is simple. With a change of mind set, investing time with others and yourself will simply melt away most points of your resistance, leaving you open to some fantastic moments. 

As I said at the start of my article, you can never take away some risks, but if personal motivation is such that it inspires you, then even these risks become less worrying.

So take a chance, stick out your hand, say hello to a stranger, create a conversation and see what happens next.
The only difference between my interpretation of networking and the others are words, the definition it is given and emotion. These interpretations will have come from personal experience, observations or word of mount, but with no personal foundation.

Most words have an emotional trigger one that pulls us towards it, pushes us away or leaves us neutral.

The psychology of networking is such an amazing topic. It makes my head explode thinking about how I can share with you what you could achieve with the right psychology or mind set.

I am a pragmatist. I’m in business and most of my actions have to achieve a result of some sort or another. I’m just as motivated by financial reward as I am by experiencing new things or pushing myself further than I thought possible. There is nothing more rewarding than being of service to others and helping their dreams come true.

So this article has to achieve a result for you, it needs to change something inside you or hone your views. If your one action is to attend a networking event you are ten times more likely to have an amazing experience, meet incredible people by turning up and thinking that. Likewise when you attend that same event and arrive thinking, this is going to be a waste of time, I am bound to meet a lot of boring people and bound to go home empty handed. Both mind sets will achieve what they determine.

Your outlook, attitude, mind-set will determine the most likely outcome, shun the negative outlook and you could be pleasantly surprised.

With the right mind set and understanding of what networking does for thousands and thousands of people, and that is creating jobs, new business, interesting projects, personal development and so on – everything is possible.