This post is not about focusing on your needs to the exclusion of and/or cost to others. No matter how you cut it, that is just bad networking. In this case, I am referring to the idea of using yourself as a yardstick to measure your networking behavior.

Let me explain.

In networking as with most things, your optimal path is to follow the Platinum Rule — treat others as they would wish to be treated. That’s all well and good. Unfortunately, it really only works with people you know (and usually know well). What about the folks you’ve just met? Obviously a five-minute conversation isn’t enough to say you really know someone well enough to know how they want to be treated.

That’s when you have to fall back on assuming they’re like someone whom you do know well:  Yourself.

So, if you are thinking of changing the way you approach people at a networking event, first ask yourself how you would feel if someone else approached you that way. If you are considering handing out two business cards and telling the other person that you’d like their help growing your business, think about your own reaction if someone else made the same “great” offer to you.

Ironically, you can even use the same technique to encourage yourself to adopt more productive behaviors.. A lot of people have a problem asking even their strongest connections for a referral. If you share that discomfort, simply put the shoe on the other foot. If that friend approached you asking for a referral, would you go out of your way to help him out? If so, then it’s a good chance that you have nothing to fear.

We’re really talking about the Golden Rule here. We’re doing unto others as we would have done unto us. While Gold might not be quite as effective as Platinum (ask my wife about that sometime), it will certainly do in a pinch.

Photo credit: Brian Giesen