The secret to networking: Be generous and multiply

Generosity can be the foundation of a strong networking relationship. Dr. Mark Goulston shares his thoughts on why giving can be a more effective way to build trust and expand your network.
This is a photo of Mark Goulston, M.D.
Mark Goulston, M.D.

How often do you go to networking events and feel exhausted by how much people are marketing and selling to each other or them wanting you to hire them?

How often does that contribute to your walking away empty, and furthermore, to some of the people you have met avoiding following up with you?

I am the chief mentor and a principal at Shanghai- and Beijing-based China Foundations, which focuses on improving communication, cooperation, collaboration and trust in China between Chinese workers and foreign ex-pat managers. Logistics companies help Fortune 500 companies relocate hundreds of American and other non-Chinese managers to China and then outsource the cooperation and collaboration to China Foundations.

Building trust

For China Foundations to succeed in its mission, we needed to come up with a way to build trust between the Chinese and these foreign ex-pat managers. What has been working to build that trust has excellent application in America for people who are also looking to develop trusting relationships in their own business world back home with customers, clients, vendors, employees, investors and people they meet at networking events.

Our approach at China Foundations is simple, and what we refer to as “be generous and multiply.” What this means is to find out what the other person wants and needs to be successful and then do our best to provide that for them if we can.

We don’t focus on what we want in return. We will often help the other at a cost to us or at least to our own inconvenience. We don’t stop there. We will do our best to stay with that help we offer until it finishes. And then we celebrate it with them.

We find that this approach frees us from having to push or sell, both of which lessen trust and justify people keeping their guards up. Also, over time, we find that it filters the natural born givers and reciprocators who will not rest until they give something back from the takers, grabbers or receivers (people who are happy to receive but won’t give anything unless you ask for something), who we will eventually stop being so generous towards.

Over time, it leads to building long-lasting mutually-trusting and mutually-rewarding relationships.

A different approach

Now, you might say, “I can’t do that. I need to close more sales and meet my numbers, or I need someone to hire me because I’m out of work.” If that’s true, how’s that going when you take a less-than-generous approach and focus on being purely transactional and all about you?

If your answer to that is that it’s not going so well, then you may need to have a conversation with your manager or supervisor about taking a different approach that builds relationships and may not immediately close more business, but will do so in the long run.

In conclusion, if your more aggressive push to grab new business isn’t working for you at networking events, you might try this “be generous and multiply” approach.

Others might like you more. You might like you more.

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Dr. Mark Goulston is an award-winning business psychiatrist, a consultant for Fortune 500 companies and the best-selling author of seven books. His latest book, Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with Irrational and Irresponsible People in your Life can be found on Amazon. Catch up on Dr. Goulston’s previous articles here.

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