It’s Time for “Networking” to go the way of “Paradigm”

Do you recall when the word "paradigm" spilled easily from the lips of consultants, speakers, authors and far too many executives? This word eventually lost its original meaning, as it was applied so broadly and ever so frequently. Mercifully, it has now almost disappeared from our vocabulary. 

How soon will the currently overused term, “networking” meet the same fate? 

This is yet another stale word, one that has lost its meaning as an objective descriptor. It has degraded into a bludgeoning tool, suggesting a “quid pro quo.” At best, networking is interpreted as: “You help me and I’ll help you.” At its worst it is a larcenous attempt at poaching someone else’s relationships for personal gain.

The Strength of a Web
There was a time when “network” was used to describe a web, safety net, grid or matrix.
All of these share connections, contact points and threads. They represent ordered, strong linkages. They are valuable woven fibers of relationships made up of independent and interdependent shared utility—much like friendships.

Now picture a spider web. The worst encounter that the unprepared might experience occurs when this beautiful, organized, strong and steady system is stumbled upon and becomes a trap. Lines can be torn and tangled, natural balance is interrupted, and often the result is a nasty sting.

When a human network or web of friendship is likewise stumbled into its balance is disrupted and the result can be much the same. The person who moves in is noticed, but is often unappreciated and not welcomed to the scene in the manner that the newcomer may have originally desired.

Is Your Palm Up or Down?
When you move to shake someone's hand think about the position of your palm. Is it up, or is it down?
Today’s networkers are more than likely approaching others with their palms up, stumbling into a relationship in a “gimme” fashion. They are often networking to trade for contacts and connections, or to pry, presume or press. Their self-interests trump simply being delighted to begin building a new friendship.

“I want”,“I need”,“you know” “you have” (and I want them, too) are phrases in the language of networkers. This behavior and its language have become so common that the noun form of “network” has morphed into a verb, as in “I am networking.” 

This term has become far too much about “my” needs rather than yours. It’s all about urgent requests such as: “So and so suggested that you would do this for me” or “Who do you know at XYZ so I can call them up, using your name?”

None of these messages are healthy behaviors that friends use with friends. Friendships don’t go out of style, nor does building friendships require special training or classes to learn how. Networkers and networking--both the words and the presumption that underlies them--need to go the way of the term “paradigm.”

The better path for all seekers is to do what comes naturally.They need simply to make new friends.

“The road to a friend’s house is never long.”   Danish Proverb