The Road to a Friend’s House is Never Long

We all have friends who date back years. Some of these friendships are still active. Some pick up right where we left off, regardless of the distance of years or miles. Some simply fade away, despite this era of social media. We value those friends with whom we easily connect…friends who immediately sustain our attention, even when separated by time, contact or geography. As soon as we are nudged by a shared memory, the immediacy of friendship returns. It is that natural connection that quickly closes the gap; not the brilliance of the approach, whether made by letter, text, email or phone. 

Counter that with the passing acquaintance who we generously try to assist. Seldom do we entertain establishing a sudden, deep connection when approached by a stranger, or by an out-of-the-blue call from a "friend of a friend", or a "contact of a contact.” These fleeting relationships are rarely reciprocal and they quickly run dry.

Such is the road taken in the far too common social contact management tool referred to as "networking.” Unlike networking, making new friends doesn’t require a person to take a training session or study the process in order to advance relationships.  

Even the most introverted personalities are able to cement strong bonds with friends. But when a well-meaning adviser recommends that the introvert (or even the confident person) "network", there is commonly a natural avoidance reaction (as in “I hate networking”). This is for good reason. 

While the road is never long to a friend’s house, most of us are clearly uncomfortable imposing upon strangers. The common aversion to networking is not so much a matter of having a challenged social temperament or tentative interpersonal skills, as much as it is a natural instinct to ask friends rather than strangers for help.

Too often, the well-meaning imparter of "Networking Lore 101" articulates a number of steps in a process that all involve things to do, rather than simply sharing the person that you are.  A tension is easily created by stressing volume and speed, rather than by encouraging relationship building/friend making.  The mechanical networker can come across as desperate, rather than as a confident colleague, both to strangers and to friends.

When people encounter someone who clearly feels uncomfortable (as too often is the case with the unfamiliar networker), they may hesitate before responding, for fear the networker may stumble. Too many networking tools backfire, when a friendly gesture was all that was needed.   

We know instinctively how to build friendships. We don't need to be coached, even if we are a bit introverted. We know that when you offer to help a person they usually are ready to help you right back. But if you ask to "use” people to get contacts, people will most likely defer.

Being yourself works better than using a script. By modeling your character when introduced, you present yourself as you are. Healthy people are ready to bond with that friendly you. They easily lend a hand, based upon what they learn of your character, not from your practiced networking methods.

“Every man’s work is always a portrait of himself.”
Samuel Butler