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Networking: Is Your Approach Too Self-Centered?

It's a classic mistake by networkers: their approach is focused on their own needs rather than on the needs of their contacts.

Fortunately, a popular new book by Bonnie Lowe makes it easy to solve this problem. The book, "Networkaholics Revealed! True Confessions From People Who Networked Their Way to Success (And How You Can Do the Same)," provides strategies and success stories from 49 master networkers.

Many of those strategies focus on how networkers can benefit from being selfless instead of selfish.

The goal is happier contacts, which ultimately translates into long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.

"It's natural for people to look out for their own self interests when they start any important activity," Lowe said. "So many people focus their networking efforts on obtaining things they want (more leads, referrals, sales and business).

"But the best networkers know this is a huge mistake. While those desired outcomes are shared by all networkers, people who put others' needs before their own will reap far greater rewards."

According to Lowe, the first and most important step when striving to build a meaningful network is to consciously suspend your self interest.

Then follow these three steps:

1. Ask yourself, "How can I help them?" (instead of "How can they help me?"). Give a lot of thought to what you can offer them, such as:

  • Something they cannot do.
  • Something they will not do.
  • Something they do not want to do.

    "If you can do any of those three things, you immediately have value," said Chip Tarver, author of First Contact Secrets. "If you have value in a stranger's eyes, he/she will think you're worth getting to know. If you don't have value, why would they care about you? Your goal should be to help others. If your only goal is to help yourself, you're not going to be much of a networker, because you'll become known as a 'taker,' not a 'giver.' Givers have the greatest networks and they typically give out of a heart of giving, not out of selfishness to enrich themselves."

    Dr. Harlan Kilstein, CEO of Overnight Copy, offers this strategy: "The best thing you can do, well before you meet with people, is find out about them, their businesses, their products, etc. Give them positive feedback. Most importantly, find out what you can do for them. That's the true definition of networking."

    Ken McCarthy, Founder of Amacord, Inc., said, "Never look at people as a means to an end. I know a lot of people do that and become successful that way, but they flame out as people around them realize, 'This guy is totally in it for himself; he doesn't care about me.' People figure that out eventually. But if you offer service and are truly helpful to someone, then all doors open to you."

    2. Be kind.

    "One of my favorite bumper stickers is 'Practice Random Acts of Kindness,'" Lowe said. "That applies perfectly to networking."

    Helena Bouchez, Owner of Lenalinks Creative Technical Writing & Consulting, said, "Acts of kindness have tremendous impact and create instant rapport. People do not expect it. You become top-of-mind for the person you help. It's not a linear process. All help given comes back multiplied ? but not necessarily from the person you helped! A lot of people don't understand this and get very fixated on 'score keeping' and extracting something from the person they gave something to. That's not how it works. Generosity creates a positive vibe, and is a magnet for good situations."

    3. Be patient.

    Some benefits of your generosity will be immediate, but not all.

    David Garfinkel, Founder of World Copywriting Institute, suggests, "Take a long-term view about 'getting yours.' Things can happen in a flash, but often you'll help someone and years later, just when you need it, people in your network will be there for you in ways you never could have anticipated."

    In Summary

    "All business is ultimately about people and relationships," said Lowe. "We all feel better doing business with people we like. When you are generous to others and genuinely care about helping them, they will naturally like you and want to help you in turn."

    Giving first also invokes the universal law of reciprocity. In other words, if you do something for someone else, that person feels obliged to return the favor and do something for you.

    The end result of all this generosity? Long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships!

    Bonnie Lowe is author of the popular book, "Networkaholics Revealed! True Confessions From People Who Networked Their Way to Success (And How You Can Do the Same)." For more information about this helpful networking resource, go to

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