The Art of Gracious Networking

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Filed under: Canright Blog

The Art of Gracious Networking


Growing up, I remember wanting to learn how to be social. I was shy, but I wanted to engage with people, be seen and be heard, and have good manners, to boot.

So I started reading Emily Post, who was basically the bible of good manners at that time, and then later moved on to Judith Martin’s column called “Miss Manners” in the late 1970s.

Any questions I had on etiquette—how to write a thank-you letter, how to be a courteous guest—I would do my best to follow their lead.

When I found myself thinking about networking and the next blog I would write, I realized there are a few things that matter most to me when meeting new people. First and foremost, I believe all people deserve respect. It’s one of my core values, and it’s why I care so much about good manners—all those guides to good manners took the lead from a belief in respect for others.

Years later, and my manners have served me well. I’ve grown, and I’ve learned how to engage more meaningfully with people in social situations. One of my biggest takeaways is that a gracious, interested conversationalist always has a step up in social situations. I strive to engage in that way.

My my beliefs come from within, I still seek advice from other sources. My own personal development has been boosted by the leadership work I do at the Wright Foundation, which I credit for helping me better engage with others, be myself when I approach new people and be curious about those that I meet.

I’m still trying to learn to be as gracious as I can be, so I’m always thrilled to hear about tips on engagement and manners from other networking aficionados.

Here are a few tips I enjoyed about being gracious from around the Web:

Three Gracious Networking “Do’s”1. Make a point to say goodbye. I agree with what Tamsin Lejeune, founder of Ethical Fashion Forum, told Marie Claire Magazine: “Making as much as an effort with your ‘goodbye’ as with your ‘hello,’ means people remember you for all the right reasons. It’s also a great way to show that you’ve valued speaking to them…”

For starters, it’s good manners, and it’s another way to acknowledge the people that you met. Saying “goodbye” is a bigger a deal than most people realize. I also call it classy.

2. Be generous. I loved what former presidential advisor Christine Comaford had to say about networking. “I do a lot of favors for people, because I believe in ‘palm-up’ networking,” Comaford told Tim Ferris, which she describes as a “networking to give” philosophy. Networking is about offering what you can do for people, not first asking what people can do for you.

3. Embrace learning opportunities. It’s important to remember that most people, when asked, want to help others. That’s why I liked what Mindy Lockard wrote in a blog post called The Gracious Girl’s Guide to Networking:

“Some of the best networking happens because we ask others to teach us. So often we think that by networking, we have to sell ourselves as the experts. But let’s be honest, there is very little humility in that.”

None of us are going to be experts in everything, so why should we be afraid to ask for help or advice? You never know what lengths someone will go to help you. It’s assuming others want to help and have good will for you.