If you’re resistant to networking, you are not alone. Around two thirds of people feel the same way. Professor Marissa King explores 3 research-backed reasons people feel adverse to networking and offers some small changes you can make to feel more comfortable connecting with other people.
Discover your own network type: https://www.assessyournetwork.com/
To learn more about networks, read Marissa’s book Social Chemistry: https://marissaking.com/socialchemistry
Research referenced & other notes[0:20] Players and Purists: Networking Strategies and Agency of Service Professionals: Bensaou, Galunic, & Jonczyk- Sédès
https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2013.0826 [1:55] Integrating Personality and Social Networks: A Meta- Analysis of Personality, Network Position, and Work Outcomes in Organizations: Fang, Landis, Zhang, Anderson, Shaw & Kilduff
https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2015.0972 [3:17] The Contaminating Effects of Building Instrumental Ties: How Networking Can Make Us Feel Dirty: Casciaro, Gino, and Kouchaki.
May be slightly edited for clarity
Take a moment to think about how important your relationships are to your health, well-being, or professional development.
Now take another moment to think about how much time you spend cultivating and reflecting upon those relationships.
For most people there’s a disconnect.
Research by Ben Bensaou and his colleagues at INSEAD have found that two thirds of people are either actively resistant to networking or think it’s futile.
There are three reasons that people often are resistant to thinking about their relationships in a purposeful manner.
The first is time.
The second is that they feel that it’s futile. Or they don’t have the skills to effectively build and maintain relationships.
And the third is they just simply find it gross. Or, have a moral objection to it. They think networking is dirty.
Let’s tackle each of these in turn.
In your day to day life — when you’re running to get groceries, trying to make it to work, dealing with family obligations, or simply just trying to get through another day — it can often be hard to set aside time to think about our relationships no matter how much we care about them.
But, the truth of the matter is that it only takes a little bit of time and reflection to radically change the way that your relationships are. You don’t need to be spending hours a week in networking events.
In fact, networking, or just developing a broader range of contacts isn’t going to be helpful for most people.
Instead it’s much more useful to think about the time you do have whether that’s 10 minutes or 30 minutes in a given week. And, understand the structure of your network, how it really works, and what you need, either to feel supported in your life or to get ahead in your career.
The second reason people are often resistant to building a network or thinking about their relationships, which really are at the core of their well-being, is that they think they don’t have the skills. Or, that networking is futile.
But, the preponderance of research shows that the structure of someone’s network and its size has little to do with their personality.
Extroverts don’t have a huge advantage here. What’s much more important, is developing what’s known as a flexible mindset.
A flexible mindset is the idea that any skill can be learned. That there isn’t a set of properties that make some people terrific networkers, and the rest of us, condemned to having no friends for the rest of our life.
In reality, adopting a flexible mindset can really begin to help ease some of the social anxiety and the easiest way to start to address this is to think about what social situations do you
feel most comfortable in. Do you like hosting small dinner parties and having close friends over? Do you like working a room?
In whatever situation you feel most comfortable in, you’re going to be able to more authentically develop relationships which is key to developing a useful and supportive network.
The third reason people are often resistant to thinking purposefully or intentionally about their relationships or building a network is they think it’s dirty.
This makes a lot of sense, that we have moral objections to thinking intentionally or strategically about our relationships. Our relationships with other people are valued and sacred. And, the idea of profiting off of them can become quite off-putting for many.
This has been well demonstrated in a brilliant study that was done by researchers at the universities of Toronto and Harvard. They asked people to recall two situations. It was either spontaneous, for instance, they were at a wedding and ran into a friend who introduced them to someone who happened to give them a job lead.
Or, they asked people to recall a situation in which they were much more intentional about building relationships. For instance, going to a networking event, trading business cards, and purposefully pursuing a new job lead.
After asking people to recall one of these two scenarios they asked them to complete a simple word task in which they were presented with letters for instance W _ S H.
People who were asked to reflect upon spontaneous social interactions tended to choose quite neutral words like WISH for W _ S H.
In contrast, people who are asked to think about a more intentional networking opportunity tended to choose words associated with cleansing like WASH for the W _ S H task.
The same was true when they ask them to evaluate products, Post-it notes vs. cleansing products.
People who are thinking intentionally about building a network were much more likely to choose cleansing products like soap and place greater value on them.
And what this suggests, is there is something at a fundamental moral level about the idea of being intentional in our social relationships.
In order to overcome this, there’s a variety of things you can do. You can think about what you can give in any social situation, rather than what you can get.
And by re-framing social opportunities as an opportunity to give rather than being intentional, you can begin to overcome this 3rd cognitive bias around moral objections.
And, regardless of how you feel about your network — whether you feel that it’s an area that you really need to work on, vs. something you would prefer not to look at — the reality is that your relationships are critical to your well-being to your health, your happiness, and your career success.