I confess. In most areas of my life I’m a loner.
Sports have been a major part of my life ever since I can remember. And for the most part I’ve gravitated towards individual activities. Singles tennis, running, skateboarding, biking, swimming. All of which involve very minimal interaction with other people – if any at all. Don’t get me wrong, I can handle having another person next to me on a court or a field, but more than that and it becomes a threat to my existence (kinda’ like what Warhol said about his nudity).
Even though I was nominated ‘best all around’ during my senior year in high-school (I can’t believe I’m sharing this with you) in college I was labelled a GDI (and proud).
At work I tend to eat lunch alone at my desk. I’m known for saying ‘no thanks’ to invitations – more so if they involve going out with a group. It could be because I am a bit of a workaholic that I stay back working, but mostly it’s because I love to sit and enjoy the silence. That’s how I gather my thoughts and psych myself up for the afternoon.
So how on earth does a loner like me end up making a good living in business development and getting several awards in the process? When it’s a job that requires that I mingle with people?
Here are my secrets to networking and getting what I want from people:
1. Be genuine: It is much more likely that people who care about you are those who will help you. The best way I know how to get people to care about me is for me to care about them. It really is that simple. At work functions I apply the 80/20 rule and I only spend time with people I find interesting. I know that if I bond with one or two people, chances are I’ll be able to get more out of our relationship than if I tap 20 people and move on. And I’ll enjoy myself along the way because I’ll be dealing with people I genuinely like and who I feel I can be myself around.
2. Don’t wait until you need someone to approach them: I don’t like being used. That’s how I know that other people don’t like it either. To avoid getting to a point where I only contact people when I need them, I stay loosely connected – because I care to know how they are (remember, we bonded at some point). It’s just like practicing preventive medicine vs the curative kind. If I approach someone when I need them, it’s too late. They will sense that I’m using them. And although they may play along and get me what I want in the short-term, chances are that I’ve lost a relationship.
3. First give: I love to receive things from people – and it doesn’t have to be big for my energy levels to spike. A sincere compliment has a similar effect on me as a bunch of flowers – both trigger my serotonin response. And when someone gives me something – as small as a compliment – I feel good about being nice back to them. That’s why I know others also feel good about reciprocating after I’ve given them something. Making deposits in people’s emotional bank accounts has proven to be a good investment. If you’re thinking that it’s too Machiavellian to go around complimenting people left and right, re-read my secret number one.
4. Ask, ask, ask: I admire people who persevere. And I will go out of my way for people who believe so much in what they’re doing that they’re willing to do anything to see their cause through. When someone I barely know asks me for something, I find it gutsy, not annoying. More so, I feel honored that someone with such great qualities considers that I can help them. That’s why I believe that anyone worth asking will not mind my own asking.
How have you loners out there made it in this network-crazed world? I’d love to know…
7 thoughts on “Networking for loners (made easy)”
This is really great advice. I’m a loner too, and I always feel pressured to be more social. People seem to think that only “the life of the party” people will be successful. I am graduating college soon, and hope to prove that stereotype wrong.
@Rebecca – great to hear. During my 10-year working life I’ve learned that my uniqueness is my strength. That said, I suggest that you identify your strengths and look for opportunities to play to them…In other words don’t waste time as a circle trying to fit into a square. Stay in touch,
Great post. I have been in the post-collegiate working world for two years now and I do have difficulty in these types of situations. I thought I could hide in my cube and my work would speak for itself, but in corporate america things dont work like that.
One challenge I have seen is that when I am real with people, I sometimes rub them the wrong way. Sometimes I come across as arrogant, but I believe this is because I believe strongly in my ideas and refuse to wait for my hair to be gray to be respected in the workplace.
I love your blog and niche associated with it. Keep it up!
Thanks Chris. I believe that while being genuine and true to yourself is key, as with the application of law, context is also key. When speaking my mind at work, I’ve found that being firm, fair and friendly (kinda’ like naughty but nice), tends to get my point across more effectively than when I’ve been as you say ‘arrogant’. Stay tuned..and keep on bloggin’. Silvana
Hi. I really liked your above post. It really made me think twice. I’m a loner. I’ve been a loner ever since I transferred to a different high school. I’ve tried making friends but they don’t seem to want to open up to me. And I just can’t seem to fit in any of their groups. I feel so isolated. I’ve never felt this way before. I think I might even suffer from mild depression!
I’ve had one or two people calling me an anti-social person. And I’m probably known in high school as the loner who doesn’t like mixing with friends. Help! What do you think I should do? thanks a bunch. x
Since I’m not a psychologist, I do not feel I can properly advice you…I suggest that you chat to a professional about your suspicions about being mildly depressed. You might be surprised to find out that speaking about your issues is all you need to feel better.