From Handshakes to Heartfelt Conversations: Mastering the Art of Authentic Networking

In the age of profits, losses, transactions, and the desperation to just live, networking is the worst evil. The air of approaching someone just to gain something flickers out the candle of trust and genuineness easily. The ultimate problem is when you start to view yourself as a manipulative person, leading to issues with self-esteem and confidence. 

In the 21st century, networking is no doubt a necessity, something that cannot be compromised. But does this practice have to be so bleak?

Networking stemmed from a desire to make the world of work feel more genuine and humane, where humans do not exist as machines and build each other up. Understanding this can make all the difference.

This article will help you learn about some of the best strategic approaches to authentic networking. It will also help you build truly meaningful relationships in your career. Continue reading to learn more.

Defining the art of authentic networking

Authentic networking is described as the art of building genuine connections and meaningful relationships through values like trust, mutual respect, and shared interest. It is the concept closest to traditional networking, which prioritizes building genuine relationships. These connections stand the test of time and are characterized by honesty and sincere support.

Transactional networking tends to focus on forming a short-term relationship to achieve a particular goal. The modern meaning of networking comes from this term, where the main event is the profitable outcome as a result of a ‘transaction’. In authentic networking, this is just a side bonus.

Read more: The Power of Networking: Leveraging Social Interactions for Personal and Professional Growth 

The idea of networking came into existence to motivate the pursuit of career growth that means more than just monetary profit. It was realized long ago that the world of work can be quite cold and establishing meaningful connections with others that make people feel less isolated is important. 

Meaningful relationships with work colleagues can have a huge positive impact on mental well-being. These high-quality relationships can provide social support and a protective factor over detrimental experiences like stress and depression. Special relationships like these can also act as mood stabilizers and help build resilience to face life’s adversities. 

Active listening stands out as a crucial skill in this context. 

According to Harry Weger Jr., a professor at Nicholson School of Communication, and his colleagues, active listening helps in greater comprehension and retention of the speaker’s message and generally leads to a more positive impression than ineffective listeners. 

Active listeners are perceived to be more trustworthy, friendly, and socially attractive, which also helps in inducing a feeling of genuine engagement. They tend to leave a feeling of ‘satisfying interaction’ which feels more rewarding for both communicating parties and acts as a stimulus for future communications.

Strategies for practicing authentic networking

Networking, contrary to popular belief, is quite rational. Being authentic while establishing a balance of not oversharing or invading boundaries is learnable through networking strategies. Here’s how you can do it:

Mastering the art of genuine engagement

There is a very simple formula to engage with others genuinely: be authentic. This does not entail burdening people with your life facts but refers to the act of showing genuine interest and giving contextual responses in a conversation. 

Being authentic is a major factor in developing a good connection and mutual trust. Sincerity makes the other person feel comfortable with you and lets them know they’re being heard. Additionally, it highlights the importance of their words, elevating their sense of personal worth. 

Other than showing interest and giving proper responses, here are some other ways you can genuinely engage to build authentic professional relationships:

  • Stay present. Being present improves the quality of your interactions and demonstrates respect. Keep your eyes off other things and focus entirely on the person you speak with.
  • Find common ground. Seek out people with whom you have shared experiences or similar interests. Doing so creates a sense of camaraderie and facilitates connection-making. Building rapport based on shared experiences can lead to more meaningful interactions.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Pose open-ended questions that invite others to share their ideas and experiences to foster meaningful interactions. This demonstrates your appreciation for their opinions and your interest in their point of view.
  • Show appreciation. Express gratitude for people’s efforts and contributions. Praise them for all of their accomplishments, large and small. A simple “thank you” can go a long way in building rapport and motivating others.
  • Follow up. After a conversation or meeting, follow up with a personalized message or gesture to show that you value the connection.

Employing empathy in networking

You have already explored how active listening can help in authentic networking. However, there is another very crucial element present in most humans that contributes directly to authenticity: empathy. 

According to research, empathy is important in professional networking because people value real connections and relationships, not just business operations. Professionals who can empathize well can connect better as they get a depth of the listener’s words and understand the unspoken. Empathy is what separates good from great communicators.

Active listening will create a good networker, but with empathy, the quality of networking becomes authentic. 

Empathy does not develop overnight; it requires constant effort (often small). To be more empathetic towards others, the following simple techniques can be employed:

  • Use empathetic language. Sayings like “That must be challenging” or “I understand how you feel” might help demonstrate your empathy and understanding.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues. To learn more about the speaker’s feelings and experiences, observe their facial expressions and body language. Additionally, you can express understanding and support by using the right gestures and touches.
  • Avoid judgemental or dismissive language. Pay attention to what you say, and refrain from discounting or passing judgment on other people’s experiences. Remember, there is a difference between opinions and judgment.
  • Improve emotional intelligence. Increase your emotional quotient (EQ) through education, experience, or consistent practice to become more understanding and empathic.

Adding value to professional connections

Developing good relationships with colleagues is like growing a plant, one that requires careful nurturing. This nurturing is done by providing valuable interactions. 

Research indicates that behavioral outcomes and the quality of relationships are significantly influenced by value, which has a direct impact on a speaker’s goal to grow their professional relationship with a listener. 

Value also had a stronger effect on satisfaction than on commitment and trust. Thus, adding value to a connection is essential for improving its quality, raising mutual satisfaction, and encouraging positive behavioral outcomes like network growth and relationship retention.

Some of the best ways to add to the successful growth of your connections and, thus, maintain a mutually beneficial relationship are:

  • Offering assistance. Offer support to and help solve problems when possible. 
  • Sharing resources. Be sure to communicate your ideas, insights, and the valuable resources you find.
  • Being proactive. Focus on giving as much as you get, check in on your network, and support their goals whenever you can.
  • Putting quality over quantity. Focus on long-term, quality, and sustainable relationships when networking. 

Leveraging social and digital platforms for authenticity

There is nothing in this world that can represent the present times as digital platforms. Screens and the internet define the digital era everyone lives in right now. Naturally, digital sites are used regularly for networking and creating connections. But what’s the benefit of using these sites? 

Digital platforms are valuable because they can connect professionals from all around the world. They can break geographical barriers and expand your network; they can increase your visibility, leading to new opportunities and collaborations.

These platforms also give you access to diverse perspectives, viewpoints, ideas, and experiences. Ultimately, they are way more efficient than traditional networking strategies, with their ability to communicate quickly in real time. 

So how can you, as a professional, use online tools to strengthen your connections in today’s digital world? Well, you have a few options:

  • Social media platforms. Social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter lets you network with people in your field and beyond. Authentically engage by posting insightful information, leaving thoughtful comments on other people’s posts, and striking up interesting discussions. 
  • Online communities and forums. Engage in online forums and communities like Reddit, Quora, or niche forums that are relevant to your interests or industry. Be genuinely involved by responding with assistance, imparting your knowledge, and fostering connections with other members.
  • Collaboration tools. Thanks to solutions for remote work like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Asana, or Trello, people can collaborate virtually and stay in touch with one another. Utilize these tools to have real-time conversations with coworkers, improve ties within and between departments, and cultivate an environment of openness and transparency.
  • Follow up and follow through. Send a thank-you note or follow up with a personalized message to someone you’ve connected with online to show your appreciation and strengthen the relationship. Maintain regular contact by checking in, sending pertinent updates, or lending a trusted helping hand when required to maintain credibility.

Read more: How to Use Social Media to Your Advantage 

In conclusion

Authentic networking is a beacon of trust and honesty in a world where transactions and self-interest rule. 

There is more to authentic networking than just accomplishing immediate objectives. It is founded on principles of mutual respect, trust, and common interests. Professionals can build relationships that endure over time by developing the skill of true interaction, using empathy, offering value to professional connections, practicing active listening, and making good use of digital platforms. 

Professionals must evaluate their networking strategies and aim for genuineness in their interactions. You can establish a professional environment where mutual support and trust flourish by putting more effort into developing authentic connections. 

Upgrade your networking game and build everlasting connections now.

If you would like to see more resources on clients, check out the Personal Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Personal Science Labs today.

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