Why People Hate Networking

Why do people hate networking?

My guess is you've had one of two reactions:
A) Going "right on, brother" and wondering just why people don't like it.
B) Nodding and saying "yeah, it's really annoying."

If you're in the "A" category, hang in there, we're going to explore some psychology.  If you're in the "B" category . . . well hang in there and listen to the exploration because we're talking about you.  Don't get embarrassed.

There's many reasons people may dislike networking: personal exposure, the effort, etc.  But there's one reason I've been thinking of lately, one that I think may explain a lot of cases of Networking-hating, and may be tangental to most others.

Namely, I think the idea of "NetworkIng" as it is so often pitched, the idea of schmoozing-and-connecting-desperately-for-business, is so annoying and dis-likable because it distorts our normal social instincts.

Humans are mostly naturally social.  Even introverts have their social sides.  We like people, we like to connect, we like to hook up with others.  Rare indeed is the person who doesn't want any human contact (and they many have their own problems).

We geeks are natural connectors.  You go to conventions, read Tweets, post on Message boards, and more.  Social Media has probably brought out our social sides even more.  Humans connect – we naturally network.

Yet, mention the word Networking, with that all-important capital "N" and people may give you a sigh and note it's important, but . . .

That's because the idea of Networking for business, for careers, has been distorted.  It's become forced socialization, must-do-socialization.  We're told how important Networking is, how we must do it – and of course when you "must" do something you like, it becomes less fun.

Networking, too often, has become something people view as something they have to do.  It's the career equivalent of the uncomfortable family reunion where you're supposed to know everyone but don't, or the social event you went to under pressure where you have to pretend to have fun, etc.  We're told we have to do it, we feel pressured to do it – so we hate it.

We learn to hate the basic human activity of connecting.

I figure this happened because of there's a part of our culture very big on career improvement – which of course means plenty of books, seminars, and more on it.  Networking really is important, Networking really is good for your career, and frankly people could probably be better at it.  However when there's hundred of books on it and it's mentioned in every job search seminar and web page . . . well it's hard not to feel pressure.

Throw in the lousy economy, and there's more pressure.

When we feel pressure to do something we usually enjoy it less, no matter how much we usually enjoy it.  Even if it's part of our nature.

So next time you find you hate Networking – or if you talk to someone else who does – remind them of this.   Once we realize we have an issue, we can address it.

As for addressing it, well, that's for another post . . .

– Steven Savage