Networking Bottom Line Up Front: Social interaction is another term for networking. We all network, but we can choose how deliberate we are about it. Once we know how to be deliberate we can apply our skills or not, but social interaction just gets better and better.

Warning: As the old comic book adage goes, we must never use our powers for evil. If we use people as a means to an end, we de-humanize both them and ourselves. Never use social interaction as a way to use people. Use social interaction to serve others and bring value. It will enrich your life and theirs.

An Authentic Masculinity Approach to Networking: At AM we are first and foremost practical. We seek to offer our community tools and techniques that are repeatable, scalable and practical. One of our favorites is the application of the deceptively simple Five Ws and The H. We recommend using the simple questions of Who, What, Where, When, Why and How to break down most any problem. It gets exciting quickly and in this case gets fun quickly too with the addition of a sort of switch as the second simple word. Switch the word from “is or can” to “should”.  For example, “When do we network?” becomes “When should we network?” It may sound tricky, but it’s not (well, the ethics of it can be, but that’s fun, too) and you’ll see very quickly what a big difference that simple shift makes. How we look at anything is a choice we make. When we learn to make that choice, gentlemen, we are the better for it. OK, here we go.

A simple AM definition of networking: Deliberate ethical social interaction.

Who can network: Human beings are social creatures. We all network from the earliest moments of our existence. It may sound funny to think of a baby networking, but we all did it. We benefit from the relationships in our family and we learn very quickly as children how to use those relationships to get what we need, then what we want, then where we want to go, and it takes off from there. There are many variables at work in a family and ideally we learn how to be ethical networkers by both the examples set for us and the underlying philosophy in our families. But we all can and do network.

Who should network: This is where it starts to get interesting. Anyone who wants anything can benefit from networking, so in a sense we all should network. The degree to which we can navigate human relationships determines much in our lives. There is a commonly accepted theory (apply it to yourself to see if it is true in your own life) that our income is the average of the five people we spend the most time with. If this is true, and common sense tells us it very well may be, as a practical matter it makes sense to be deliberate about who you associate with. You should interact with people who can help you and who are good for you. Anyone who wants more out of life should network and the degree to which you network well can determine how quickly or slowly you grow and progress through life.

What is networking: We said above that networking is deliberate ethical social interaction. That’s a pretty good working definition. How aware we are of our own networking quickly starts to affect all the variables involved. We’ll try to cover as much as we can as we proceed.

What should networking be: Networking should be ethical and effective. At AM we promote a belief in Natural Law. Simply put, Natural Law states that all human beings have within them a basic working knowledge of a universal morality. The best example I can think of is that in no society in the world is cowardice admired. In all societies courage is a virtue, though there is some disagreement on the details. Consistent with Natural Law, networking should always be ethical. We must never use other human beings as a means to an end, for human beings are an end in themselves. One of the beauties of this approach is that it sets us up well for success at networking because if we think of other human beings as ends in themselves we will help them and interestingly, by so doing, we help ourselves, too. So, networking should be ethical, deliberate social interaction in which you bring value first and in which you seek to build a long-term relationship. You may disagree with the details or practical application of this, but you’ll see, I think, why it’s a wise way to proceed. For one thing, it’s easier to scale a relationship back from long-term to short-term than it is to go from short-term to long-term. Start by assuming you’re building a long-term relationship. We treat people differently if we assume we will be seeing them frequently over time. And, effective networking is like all communication—the sophisticated networker takes responsibility for both sides of the interaction. And, effective networking should maximize the wins for all involved. The more wins, the better.

Next week: The where, when and why of networking.