Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

10 Signs You’re Doing Networking All Wrong

Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about how to win friends and influence people. There is a right way to do this. And there is a wrong way.

10 Signs You're Doing Networking All Wrong

There is a patient way and an expedient way. There is a generous way and a self-serving way. So how do you know if you’re doing networking all wrong?

It’s not wrong to want more influence, to reach out and serve your way into more relationships. It is, however, bad to go about it the wrong way.

There is a proper etiquette to making connections, and it has nothing to do with which fork you use to eat your meal. It does, however, have everything to do with treating people like human beings.

When Augustine became bishop of northern Africa, he wept. This is the right response for anyone who steps into a position of influence. It demonstrates that your heart is postured correctly.

A real leader knows his influence is not about him; it’s not a personal platform. It’s a burden, an obligation. So many people seek influence without understanding this. They want a soap box. They want to be popular.

This is not how it works. Really good networking is about humility and serving others. Everything else is just sleazy and, not surprisingly, less effective.

Bad networking etiquette

Here are some indicators that you’re doing networking all wrong:

  1. When you meet someone new, you talk more about yourself than you ask questions.
  2. You ask for favors more than you offer them.
  3. You comment on other people’s blogs only to get others to read your blog.
  4. Your last five tweets were about you.
  5. You haven’t picked up the phone to connect with someone new in over a month.
  6. You find yourself getting jealous at others’ success.
  7. You try to get influencers to pity you instead of wooing them.
  8. You put yourself down in the company of others.
  9. No one asks for your business card or contact info… ever. (You didn’t ask for anyone’s, either.)
  10. The only way you can grab people’s attention is by awkwardly forcing yourself into a conversation.

The paradox of influence is that those who have it can easily get more, and those that lack it struggle to gain momentum.

The same can be said for friendship. Those who need friends struggle to find them, and those that can make friends have an abundance of them.

Why is gaining influence so hard?

Because nobody wants to be friends with someone who doesn’t believe in herself. Nobody wants to be the one to keep giving you a pep talk. Eventually, everyone gets tired of that.

People want to hang out with those who are fun and confident and interesting. They like people that other people like. What do you do? You have two options:

  1. Fake it. This works for some people. They fake confidence long enough that they begin to believe it about themselves. I’m not a fan of dishonesty or bravado, so I forgo this option, but that’s just me. I’ll leave this to your conscience.
  2. Do something epic. Instead of trying to network, you could stop. You could focus all that frustrated energy on doing something worth talking about, on creating. People naturally gravitate to others who are doing remarkable things. It’s not hard; it just takes time and focus.

Look, nobody’s perfect. We all struggle with being self-centered or awkward on occasion. What I know is this: people who are incredible at networking do the following:

  • Ask thoughtful questions.
  • Show sincere interest in others.
  • Remember people’s names and stories.
  • Genuinely want other people to succeed.
  • Celebrate their friends’ achievements over their own.

I’m not saying you need to be over-confident, arrogant jerk. In fact, I’m saying the opposite.

Be humble. Show interest in others. Seek influence for the sake of making people’s lives better. Don’t focus on yourself. Be like Augustine. Resist choosing positional authority until it chooses you.

In the mean time, try creating really epic stuff, and see whose attention you capture.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Paul Fowler

    Great article! I love learning from others who themselves learn from others!

  • It’s tough to promote yourself AND want others to succeed. It’s easy to get lost in your own work and leave others in the dust. I try to always be encouraging and remind myself that if I don’t have followers or friends, I don’t have anything.

  • Another one out of the ballpark Jeff! 
    Good, good stuff!

  • Great article Jeff.  I think that everyone should read How to Win Friends and Influence People.  It is such a good book that help you in all areas of your life – work, business, family, and friends. 

  • Jeff~ I’m curious, when you first started out did you have a mentor? Someone to help you navigate through the muddy waters of social media and networking etiquette? I
    think this is a fabulous article and understand exactly your points…I am confident in my dream and know what has been laid on my heart.  

    But I know for me personally, the transition of leaving behind steady work and pay to approach the unknown where I have time to pursue that dream and learn how to network effectively is somewhat intimidating and is where my uncertainty and lack of confidence lies. 

    I *try* to do most of what you listed, but don’t seem to gain a lot of traction, and am not sure where I am going wrong, if that makes sense.  I know lack of committed time right now to focus is part of the problem, so I loved the last part about actually creating something instead of just talking about it…you are right in that people are drawn to that.  I would also add that surrounding yourself with people who are making a difference and asking to learn from them might be a good thing to pursue- not everyone will say yes, but I’ve found that most want to build others up and help them succeed, especially if they believe in what you are doing.

    And the part about picking up the phone made me laugh at myself…that actually never occurred to me in this “easy” world of relationships through the computer keyboard 🙂

  • I love the story about Augustine! I’m a new blogger and the networking aspect is a bit overwhelming – how to network and be sincere while trying to build a brand. Your recent articles have been so helpful. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Jason I love that story, too. I heard it from John Eldredge.

  • Larry Shallenberger

    Very nice post, Jeff. I didn’t know that about Augustine. 

  • “The paradox of influence is that those who have it can easily get more, and those that lack it struggle to gain momentum”.

    wow.  I mean … wow.  amen.

    “Instead of trying to network, you could stop. You could focus all that
    frustrated energy on doing something worth talking about, on creating”.  Double-wow.

    • Thanks, Fred!

    • I have to agree with Fred and second all of his remarks above!  Great job, Jeff!

      • Thanks, Lindsey! You’re a great networker yourself. Love how bold you can be with asking.

  • Great thoughts, Jeff. I just started a blog and this info I will add to my toolbox.

  • Jeff, another outstanding post! You’re absolutely correct by stating that good networking swings on the hinge of “doing unto others as we’d have them do unto us.” Thanks for doing good to us!

    • Well said, Tor! Did you make that up? 😉

    • Well said, Tor! Did you make that up? 😉

  • I think everything here is right on, Jeff.  I always remind myself to give value to others, rather than taking value away. For example, when I network, I always keep this in mind: “Can I help them with my skills and professional network?”

    It also helps to become a curious person. Everyone has a story, and it’s exciting to find out what that is.

    • You’re right, Wes. I’m constantly astounded by how fascinating people’s stories are.

  • I think I’m guilty of several of those things. This was a good gut check. Thanks Jeff!

  • Jeff,

    A simply great post. Understanding and applying the simple concepts of reaching out and making connections is one of, if not THE, key core skill to have in this day and age – it’s more important now than it ever was.

    You lay it all out beautifully here. If we take these steps to heart we will become better humans. There will be no avoiding it!

    Thank you,

    Peter

    • You’re right, Peter. It seems that we’ve lost some of our humanity in this new digital age. Those who are succeeding are simply reclaiming what they already have.

  • “Remember people’s names and stories.” This is huge… Good words here, Jeff. 

  • Thanks for a great post. Good reminders. I’m often so fearful of someone feeling “used” that I can err on diminishing myself and my goals. I’ve been working on speaking confidently about my projects while showing great interest in others. There is certainly a balance.

  • Really, really good stuff, Jeff.  Thank you!  I don’t know about you, but my heart skips a beat when someone tells me that something I wrote inspired them.  Or even if they just say they didn’t hate it.  hehe  So, it seems natural to want to get as many people as possible to read it to sweeten the pot of potential compliments.  It certainly is a fine line between self-promotion and selfishness.  Thanks for getting us to think about this stuff.

    • Absolutely, Ryan. But as a pragmatist, I have to tell you — self promotion doesn’t really work. What does work, ironically, is writing remarkable content, influencing key influencers, and trusting the community to share your stuff with the masses.

      • Just don’t tell the marketing department.  hehe

        I agree, though.  It’s a “riskier” approach, but the payoff is that much sweeter.

        • Agreed.

        • “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Phil 2:3-4

          Then there’s that.

          hehe

  • Anonymous

    Wow! Great post. So much truth. 

    “Because nobody wants to be friends with someone who doesn’t believe in herself. Nobody wants to be the one to keep giving you a pep talk.” So true!

    My friend @jenniferowhite:twitter is a perfect example of a great networker. She is constantly teaching me something new about knowing people better even when she doesn’t realize it.

    Another great post!

    • Very cool. When I wrote those list of qualities of great networkers, I was thinking of my friend Alece Ronzino.

      • wow. that really means a lot, jeff. thank you!

        • it’s true. 🙂

          • evidence, this is real
            Thanks for your authenticity and directives.
            i guess i am a new follower-
            although struggling with how much time should i spend following- in preparation/inspiration to lead.
            Maybe someone (Hyatt, Edmondson, Catalyst) need to post suggestions about how much time we spend following…
            My teens have mom imposed “screen time” and texting limits so that they spend adequate time with people and reading/playing/living.  I may have to give myself a limit!

  • Yes, yes, and YES! Love this post. This is great advice, but sometimes difficult to follow. After all, we’re human, right?

    You’re right – when we take the focus off of ourselves and put it on others, it’s amazing what can happen. This is why you often hear the saying, “we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Listen more than you talk.  It will take you far.

  • I love the idea of creating epic stuff. For me personally I need validation from others so I find it difficult to create in a vacuum. I think we as a society (due largely to the reality singing/talent competitions on tv) think that success happens overnight. I totally agree with the importance of time and focus. I am constantly reminded that the skill I need to focus most on is patience.

    Thanks for this post!

  • I love the idea of creating epic stuff. For me personally I need validation from others so I find it difficult to create in a vacuum. I think we as a society (due largely to the reality singing/talent competitions on tv) think that success happens overnight. I totally agree with the importance of time and focus. I am constantly reminded that the skill I need to focus most on is patience.

    Thanks for this post!

    • Thanks, John. Would love to see what you’ve created lately.

  • Great post, Jeff!  These are tried and true tips.  I am known for my listening skills and sometimes I’m surprised by the people that want to listen to me.  Paying attention to others will always carry us far. 

    I am consistently impressed with your writing.  Time to sign up for RSS so I won’t miss anything…

  • I haven’t picked up the phone to connect with someone in … years, probably. I don’t even know why I have a phone. 

    My last five tweets were about other people, although I think I’d better stick to tweeting about myself.

    Ask thoughtful questions … um … oh, that picture, where’s that intersection? What town? I’m done with my comment. Now go read my blog. But only if you’re my ideal reader and like pizza. (Vegetarian pizza. No omnivores, please.) BTW, I don’t have a business card, so there’s no point in asking me for one.No, I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong. 

    • Truth be told, I don’t have a business card, either. But if no one’s asking, that DOES mean something… Thanks for the comment.

  • Anonymous

    I attempted to just glance at this for later, but ended up reading it entirely on the road. Too good to stop. Thanks for this, Jeff (now go read my blog, everybody!).

    • Oh, goodness, I am NOT going to be held responsible for you crashing your car, Chris!

      I see a trend emerging… 😉 

  • Doug McGannon

    Great words. Thanks.

  • Spot on! I think we get impatient and want to see results now, but I love the idea of slowing down and being conscious in our relationships with other people. Taking the time to listen and learn and then share. I love your call to do something epic, people will follow. Thanks for a great post. 
    Mary Crimmins
    Conscious Kitchen https://www.marycrimmins.com/

    • Thanks, Mary. Tell me more about this Nashville Farmers market!

  • Spot on! I think we get impatient and want to see results now, but I love the idea of slowing down and being conscious in our relationships with other people. Taking the time to listen and learn and then share. I love your call to do something epic, people will follow. Thanks for a great post. 
    Mary Crimmins
    Conscious Kitchen https://www.marycrimmins.com/

    • Thanks, Mary. Tell me more about this Nashville Farmers market!

  • Jeff, you’re putting out great stuff these days. Keep up the good work and keep in touch. (Actually, as I type this, I just remembered something I need to send you an email about. Watch for it.)

  • Jeff, you’re putting out great stuff all the time lately. Keep it up.

    I’ve got a proposal coming at you tomorrow–exciting conversation I’m starting up. Watch for it.

  • I found myself nodding my head and saying, “Well, of course that’s true. Isn’t that obvious?” But I suppose many things that seem intuitive for some people don’t come naturally for others. Influence really is a paradox, and the very best advice I took from this post is to do something epic. Create something worth gravitating towards, and I believe the influencers and connectors will find you. When they do, most will naturally want to help you.

    • The best stuff in life is obvious but rarely practiced.

  • Ah, very wise advice.  Thanks.

  • Amy Dixon

    Seriously, this was a good article. Points well taken. And taken well! 🙂 

  • Anonymous

    Great advice Jeff. Love this part:
    Be humble. Show interest in others. Seek influence for the sake of making people’s lives better.

    Don’t focus on yourself.

  • Wait ’til you have kids, and the “networking” becomes hanging out with other parents, arranging sleepovers, seeing “family-friendly” movies all the the time…

    I kid

    Often, networking is very, very hard for those of us who are wired as introverts. Believe me, I’ve done my fair share of internet “douchery,” and it makes me feel icky. On the other hand, I don’t seem to be able to keep track of great numbers of folks–it’s just the way my brain works. I would rather have far fewer, deeper connections than multitudes of more superficial ones. Which maybe makes me bad at networking in the age of social media, but there you have it.

    For you extroverts out there: introversion does not = selfishness, ok? We network differently. Maybe I’ll have to post on this sometime.

    • It might surprise you that I’m very shy in person, Chad. A lot of bloggers are, actually.

      • No, guess that doesn’t surprise me, man. Makes sense, even.

        • And I don’t think wanting to go deep makes you a bad networker. It makes you a good friend, is all networking really is — making a friend by being one.

          • Ok, gotcha; I struggle finding those deeper relationships IRL–not
            everybody wants to take the time, expend the energy.

            • But everyone IS looking for a friend like you. I guarantee it.

  • Nicely put Jeff. It has the same simple logic as “Everything I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten”
    Truth is simple….Lies are complicated

    • Well said, Sue. Thanks for the comment. Oh, Kindergarten…

  • Leland

    Well said! And words that we all need to hear. I’ll be sharing your post on facebook. As an author, I try hard to not make it all about me. It’s way better when someone ELSE does the talking about whatever I’ve created.But I’ll make sure that I don’t hide my work, either. It’s a fine balance to strike.

    What kind of pup do you live with, and how did you come up with the words ‘difference maker’? I ask because those same words appear on my business cards!

    Keep up the good work, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your writing.

    And who’s the cute dog in the picture? He’s the co-author of a book called Angelo’s Journey, available in paperback and Kindle editions at https://www.amazon.com/Angelos-Journey-Border-Collies-ebook/dp/B004RYW53U/

    • Thanks, Leland!

      It’s a Border Collie.

  • Judy Robinett

    Jeff-your thinking, relections and writing are superb. Thank you for making the world a better place.
    Best, @judyrobinett

  • Rimly Bezbaruah

    Hi Jeff just happened to stumble upon this post of yours. I am new to blogging, just started beginning of this year and your post will help a lot. Do visit my blog whenever you have the time. 

    https://rimlybezbaruah.blogspot.com/2011/08/road.html

  • So refreshing to read this. I used some excerpts on my site. Great advice on making connections instead of collecting followers.

  • Marco Piscitelli

    I don’t know how I ended up on your blog but after reading a couple of posts I had to subscribe to your newsletter. Thank you, Marco

  • Wendy Tarasoff

    Wendy Tarasoff writes, One of the definitions of ‘epic’ is ‘fit to be celebrated as heroic; impressive or tremendous’. It comes from Latin and Greek meaning ‘narrative’ ‘word’ ‘song’. What is your song, and will you belt it out and sing it? Let your voice ring out. It is okay to sing….

  • Ani

    agree with each word… as soon as I shifted my mindset from “about me” to “about them” and focused on creating real human relationships with my readers and podcast listeners everything clicked 🙂 it’s not about traffic numbers – it’s about people!

  • Mr. Goins,
    Your advice is timeless. Thank you for the reminder to focus on making friends.
    If you ever need help catching a mouse, I would love to show you how.
    All my best,
    xo
    Love Pooh

  • Russ Slater

    Another great post from Mr. Goins! All very true. Reminds me of the book the Greatest Salesman in the World – love each and every person you encounter. “Do all things with love.”