Network without being a huge jerk

Can you think of any way that I could help you?

I often encounter people whose primary motivation in meeting people is ‘how can this person further MY agenda’, and those people miss out. Over the years, I have amassed a vast group of contacts in a wide array of businesses, life spaces, with various skill sets and interesting goals. I enjoy learning about people and what makes them tick.

It is of little wonder that I have become known as a person who knows ‘everyone’. I’m often quick to supply introductions to parties that would be of mutual benefit to each other as a result. I like doing it- some great friendships and business relationships have blossomed, as a result, which is satisfying to watch (and, selfishly, to feel a part of).

Around a year ago, I was asked for a meeting by a lady that I will call Amy. I knew her through business, and we had a few social connections as well. The meeting was for me to showcase products Amy specifically said she was ready to buy (in bulk) when she called to set it up. It went south fast, which happens. We chit-chatted for a bit about family, life, and I was given some feedback about my product. I was then pressed for contact info for friends of mine that Amy could connect with, that she knew could be a gateway to businesses that could send work her way. I left the meeting in a bit of a haze, so disappointed that I had lost this important sale. I also felt uncomfortable, and I couldn’t put my finger on why.

Later on that day, it dawned on me what was so bothersome. I felt manipulated and knew that this was not the first time I had experienced this situation with Amy. As a result, I shied away from connecting her with my friends, concerned that they would end up with the same experience. Everybody lost.

Everybody knows an ‘Amy’, that person who continuously asks for access to a friend’s Rolodex. It could be that they want you to buy their product, or be an ambassador for them or their brand. Maybe they need introductions to other people they believe can help them. It is most often one-sided and only one person gains.

What do you think would have happened if Amy’s communication to me had been sincere – “Can you think of any way that I could help you?” Or if she had made an offer to introduce me to someone who would indeed be interested in my product? I probably would have been open to reciprocating. I likely would have even suggested it myself, because I would know that my contact would be treated the same way. Everybody would win.

Relationships are like banks: both people need to make deposits and withdrawals to keep the account in balance. A healthy relationship demands continued mutual benefit, even if the benefit is not exact quid pro quo.

So, the next time you meet someone new or ask for an introduction, think about first asking what you can do for them. Referrals may not come immediately, but I can assure you that they will come. Your network will grow, and it will be full of strong connections. Most importantly, the rewards of meeting interesting people will have depth beyond professional gain & you become a better person for it.