How to Practice, Master the Art of Safe Networking Across Business Circles
Relationship building is such a personal activity that you need to be careful when getting to know people. After all, your local business community is not as large as you may think.

People know each other and it will get around if you’re not acting in a respectable and honorable way toward others. It’s better to be safe so you don’t have a negative impression in business circles.

Don’t Promise Too Much

One of the most important tenets of networking is to continuously offer to help others. However, don’t get in the habit of “the offering” without “the doing”.

When you meet other people, you want them to like and respect you. You may have a tendency to want to appease them by offering to assist with a project, provide information or make a referral.

Whatever the promise, you might get excited and extend yourself too much. We are very busy individuals and it’s sometimes hard to deliver on what we say.

As a rule of thumb, don’t offer more promises than you can handle in a short period of time. In fact, get in the habit of only offering one or two promises per encounter with people.

Also, spread out your promises so you can learn about the outcome of your assistance. If you don’t get any feedback, then you should question whether to continue to help these individuals again because it shows a lack of respect.

Don’t Misrepresent

It’s never a good idea to misrepresent yourself to others. It’s deceiving and unethical. You will be found out sooner or later and it may be too late to repair the damage.

We all want others to like us. However, it should be for who we are not for some alternate version of ourselves. Allow people to get to know the real you.

We are competitive by nature. When we hear of the accomplishments of others, we tend to get jealous. As a result, we have the temptation and tendency to embellish our stories.

Hold back on this urge, because once you start telling white lies, it can be hard to stop. Tell it like it is and don’t be ashamed of what you have achieved.

Don’t Sell Too Much

Networking can get a bad rap because so many people sell their firm too aggressively at events. When meeting people for the first time, you need to develop a bond with the individual before you try to sell anything.

When interacting with people, the discussion should not be about the firms you work for but rather about each other’s backgrounds, skills and interests. Getting to know people on a personal level is a powerful way to build long-term relationships.

Once you have built a trusting relationship, the selling should come easily. As people need your products or services, they will think of you. We all tend to buy from people who we like and know well. Treat this the same way with business.

Don’t Pretend You Care

When interacting with people, it’s very important to show that you care about what’s said in a conversation. Give good listener cues and ask good questions.

However, if you truly don’t care about the conversation or the other person, don’t fake it. Instead, you should politely excuse yourself from the conversation.

If you keep the conversation going and have no interest, then you will wander your eyes and not pay attention to what’s said. When this happens, the other person will notice. This can damage your reputation.

The last thing you want is for people to have a negative impression of you. It will get around and hurt your personal brand.

Don’t Test Your Ethics

For some people, they will do just about anything to make themselves look good and to please others. When those actions border on good judgment, it’s better to err on the side of doing the right thing.

It doesn’t matter whether you question your ethics in a networking situation or business situation because your improper actions will get back to you and your peers. Don’t take the wrong action for short-term gain because it will end up doing more damage over time.

For example, if you need to fill your sales quota for a particular month, don’t mislead a prospective client into buying your services. This unethical practice will stay on your mind and will probably happen again.

The business world is small and you won’t be able to hide your actions forever. Look what happened with the executives at Enron, WorldCom and a slew of other firms over the last few years. Your actions will have a lasting impact on your life.

Final Thought

When building relationships, it’s important to always listen to your conscience so you take the right actions. Be respectful, thoughtful and helpful toward others. Err on the side of conservatism until you get to know people and understand what they can handle.