Column: When to use the golden rule in networking
Photo by Nicolas Vigier
"Do unto others, etc, etc" is a great rule to apply to networking — in general. Believe it or not, it doesn't work in all situations. Here's what I've noticed.
When it comes to networking technique or how we treat others, the Golden Rule actually works out pretty well. I think a lot of networking events would be happier places if the attendees kept this in mind.
Think about it. Do you like it when someone forces their business card on you? How about when someone tries to sell their widget to you? When someone monopolizes the conversation? I think for most of us, the answers to these questions would be a resounding "No!"
That being the case, what is the likelihood that any given person we meet would like it? I'm guessing not very.
So, when does the Golden Rule break down?
Well, I don't want to say it breaks down so much as it's superseded by the Platinum Rule ("Do unto others as they want to be done unto"). This happens in cases where we are trying to satisfy their needs. Before we attempt it, we really need to take the time to understand what those needs might be. They might not be the same as ours.
Does your networking contact need a referral for more business? Maybe. Or maybe he is currently working over-capacity and really needs to find new employees to help service his current client load. Does she want a speaking opportunity, or is she more comfortable with an opportunity to write for publication?
Does he want someone to hand him $10,000, no strings attached, or... okay, yeah, probably no one's going to turn that one down.
Still, keep in mind that the Golden Rule will only take us so far. After that we really do have to take a genuine interest in the other person to make sure our actions produce the results we want — a stronger connection and a stronger network.