Public Square & Theology 101

Isn’t Networking Just Manipulation?

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Is it possible to network to the glory of God, or is all professional networking just an attempt to manipulate people into doing favors for you?

For many Christians, networking is a professional necessity. So how can we approach it from a Christian perspective?

A friend of mine, who spends roughly fifty percent of her working hours cultivating strategic relationships, was a panelist at a recent event on professional networking. The audience was primarily a group of young interns and job seekers in Washington, DC.

Networking is also a core duty in my job, and because of this common connection, I asked my friend what she told the audience at the networking event.

Her answer:

Other people are awesome.

That’s the motivation and the key to success in networking. She elaborates on her blog where she says,

Make it your mission to find out what amazing stories people are hiding. Forget networking, this is just plain fun.

My friend’s answers remind me of two Christian principles in particular that are relevant for thinking about how we can network to the glory of God.

Humans Are Valuable and Unique

We are valuable in that we are each “created in the image of God.”

And at the risk of over-quotation (but it’s just too perfect) C.S. Lewis says in his famous essay, “The Weight of Glory,”

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

Not that anything needs to be added to this fundamental truth. We each have unique experiences. Reflect on the unique story and interests that you have:

  •  The places you’ve lived.
  • The friends you’ve had.
  • The people you’ve met.
  • The jobs you’ve had.

Each person you meet while at a networking event has been imbued with worth by God and has brought a near universe of cares and stories with them.

There should be a sense of wonder and awe in those realizations. Like Christ did for us on the earth, we can enter into their story and seek to learn more about it.

We Should Love Others as We Love Ourselves

Too often my own attitude in a networking situation is to do the “eyebrow stare,” looking over someone’s head as I talk to them for someone else “more important” or easier to talk to.

Most of us love telling our own stories, sharing our own perspectives. If we love doing that, then others probably do too, right? Loving them as we love ourselves then means we should let them talk about themselves, to share their story.

Not only will you not have to worry about saying the right things – because you’ll be doing a lot of listening – you may be remembered for being the one person who cared.

Find the thing that lights their fire and you’re sure to make a connection. In the context of professional networking, that “thing” will help you to both remember each other and may spark further collaboration and opportunity.

This is not by nature backhanded manipulation, lulling someone into comfort so they’ll like you. I believe it to be a manifestation of how Christians should behave. That’s why it’s important to have a God-centered, healthy love of self. That’s another topic and a prayer worth making.

Practically speaking, as you enter a room to network with other professionals or even distant family members, keep in mind that other people are awesome.

Keep in mind that God made every one of them unique with a story and that loving them means treating them like you’d want to be treated.

Does the fact that each person is made in the image of God change the way you network? Leave your comments here.

Photo courtesy of Aimee Custis.

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  • sally

    one of my favorite insights was when I thought, this is a person for whom Christ died. After that, the vampire teeth, the black nail polish, none of it mattered.

  • Chris Downs

    I Loved this post of Awesome information. I had been feeling the “Pressure” to Get the connections, rather that THE connection with each person. I know and share the fact that we are ALL totally awesome and we just can’t help it, because that is the way GOD has Created us.
    When I tell people that, it completely changes the conversation and allows me to listen to what GOD is doing in their lives. I Love seeing the smile and hearing the words of gratitude that I hear when I speak HIS Words of Truth.
    Thank you for the reminder and encouragement!!

  • Anneke9

    I’ve come to realize that there’s a difference between making human connections and making potential business connections when networking.

    I’m one of those people who loves listening to other people’s stories–no matter who they are, whether powerful or mundane. One of the best evenings I ever spent was listening to a homeless person in a bus station. I can’t say how much of his story was true and how much was fiction, but if it was fiction, he had one of the best imaginations I’ve come across.

    That being said, at professional networking events I always try to tell my story to someone who I’ve been listening to for awhile. If that person’s eyes glaze over and they start the “above the eyebrow” routine, I know that I would never want to deal with that person on a professional level. Can you imagine what it would be like to interact with them in a business meeting? Will they expect everyone to listen to their opinions and their ideas while they disregard input from others? If they’re so focused on themselves, their story, what they get out of the event, chances are very good that they will not be good team members.

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