One of the qualities the best networkers share is a willingness to give without expectation of return. They pass referrals, do favors, make recommendations, even pay for lunch, and never once do they stop to keep score. Somehow they know that the “score” will take care of itself in the long run, so there’s no real reason to push things along.

Interestingly, one place I’ve seen this recently is around our neighborhood. As I mentioned yesterday, we somehow survived the snow-nami that struck Ann Arbor on Tuesday night — mainly because it really didn’t snow as much as they were telling us it was going to. Still, we did have to get out and do our wintertime chores.

While we were out enjoying the crisp winter air, I saw one neighbor shoveling anothers driveway. Another neighbor, three houses down from us, pulled out his snowblower and cleared the sidewalks from his house to ours. One young man, the son of the folks who live across the street, ran up the street and helped out an older couple who’d gotten stuck trying to get out of their driveway.

In the past, we’ve shoveled our neighbor’s sidewalk and she shoveled our driveway on another occasion. People on our street watch each others pets and houses. That older couple from up the street will often stop by our house to drop off coupons that we might need.

Here’s the thing. In all of the times I’ve seen one neighbor help another, not once did I hear the good Samaritan say, “Glad to help out. Next time I expect you to help me.” It just doesn’t happen that way. We each do things for the others just because it’s the right thing to do. As a result, our neighborhood tends to be a fairly friendly one and the giving and receiving of favors only strengthens our ties.

I once met with a potential networking partner who promised to help make my membership in the local Chamber of Commerce pay off for me. We met at her office and she offered me some good strategies. As I was getting ready to leave, though, she looked at me and said, “Now that I’ve helped you, I expect a certain reciprocity. I’d like you to refer me to a few people you know.”

That one statement made me so uncomfortable that ever since then I have kept her at arm’s length. It’s a shame, too, since I’m sure we both could have benefited from a closer relationship. Maybe she would have been better off if she’d lived in my neighborhood and learned to live together like we have.

Photo credit: stock.xchng user Mattox